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Definition: math coprocessor


A mathematical circuit that performs high-speed floating point operations. Also called a "floating point unit" (FPU), the math coprocessor may be a stand-alone chip or circuits built into the CPU. Floating point capability is very important to computation-intensive work such as computer-aided design (CAD), and many CAD programs will not operate without it. A spreadsheet may use floating point operations if the circuits are available, but it is not mandatory.

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In earlier desktop computers, math coprocessors were stand-alone chips that were added to the motherboard. Today, math circuits are built into the CPU chip. See vector processor.