The underlying mathematical problem is a partial differential equation with moving boundary. Let be the width of the crack at position x and time t. Let L(t) be the length of the crack at time t, and be the time required for the crack to reach length x. Then satisfies the partial differential equation:
A standard algorithm uses a discretization in x and t to form finite difference approximations to the partial derivatives in the previous equation. At each time step tj, one must solve a nonlinear system of equations for
The solution provided by the numerical methods dealing with these nonlinear systems is not very satisfactory since in many cases problems arise when the program attempts to take the square root of a big negative number.