Is there a PHP function to evaluate string like “2-1” as arithmetic 2-1=1

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I'm a big fan of Stack Overflow and I tend to contribute regularly (am currently in the top 0.X%). In this category (stackoverflow) of posts I will will be posting my top rated questions and answers. This, btw, is allowed as explained in the meta thread here.

So, my question was if there is a PHP function which would take the string like "2-1" and produce the arithmetic result of it (1)? Or will I have to do this manually with explode() to get the values left and right of the arithmetic operator?

The answer, by user Jon, was quite elaborating:

I know this question is old, but I came across it last night while searching for something that wasn't quite related, and every single answer here is bad. Not just bad, very bad. The examples I give here will be from a class that I created back in 2005 and spent the past few hours updating for PHP5 because of this question. Other systems do exist, and were around before this question was posted, so it baffles me why every answer here tells you to use eval, when the caution from PHP is:

The eval() language construct is very dangerous because it allows execution of arbitrary PHP code. Its use thus is discouraged. If you have carefully verified that there is no other option than to use this construct, pay special attention not to pass any user provided data into it without properly validating it beforehand.

Before I jump in to the example, the places to get the class I will be using is on either PHPClasses orGitHub. Both the eos.class.php and stack.class.php are required, but can be combined in to the same file.

The reason for using a class like this is that it includes and infix to postfix(RPN) parser, and then an RPN Solver. With these, you never have to use the eval function and open your system up to vulnerabilities. Once you have the classes, the following code is all that is needed to solve a simple (to more complex) equation such as your 2-1 example.

require_once "eos.class.php";
$equation ="2-1";
$eq =new eqEOS();
$result = $eq->solveIF($equation);

That's it! You can use a parser like this for most equations, however complicated and nested without ever having to resort to the 'evil eval'.

Because I really don't want this only only to have my class in it, here are some other options. I am just familiar with my own since I've been using it for 8 years. ^^

Wolfram|Alpha API
A fairly bad parser

Not quite sure what happened to others that I had found previously - came across another one on GitHub before as well, unfortunately I didn't bookmark it, but it was related to large float operations that included a parser as well.

Anyways, I wanted to make sure an answer to solving equations in PHP on here wasn't pointing all future searchers to eval as this was at the top of a google search.

Written by Nikola Brežnjak