# Stiff equation

In mathematics, a **stiff equation** is a differential equation for which certain numerical methods for solving the equation are numerically unstable, unless the step size is taken to be extremely small. It has proven difficult to formulate a precise definition of stiffness, but the main idea is that the equation includes some terms that can lead to rapid variation in the solution.

When integrating a differential equation numerically, one would expect the requisite step size to be relatively small in a region where the solution curve displays much variation and to be relatively large where the solution curve straightens out to approach a line with slope nearly zero. For some problems this is not the case. In order for a numerical method to give a reliable solution to the differential system sometimes the step size is required to be at an unacceptably small level in a region where the solution curve is very smooth. The phenomenon is known as *stiffness*. In some cases there may be two different problems with the same solution, yet one is not stiff and the other is. The phenomenon cannot therefore be a property of the exact solution, since this is the same for both problems, and must be a property of the differential system itself. Such systems are thus known as *stiff systems*.