The finite element method (FEM), is a numerical method for solving problems of engineering and mathematical physics. The analytical solution of these problems generally require the solution to boundary value problems for partial differential equations.
boundary value problems
The finite element method formulation of the problem results in a system of algebraic equations. The method yields approximate values of the unknowns at discrete number of points over the domain. To solve the problem, it subdivides a large problem into smaller, simpler parts that are called finite elements. The simple equations that model these finite elements are then assembled into a larger system of equations that models the entire problem. FEM then uses variational methods from the calculus of variations to approximate a solution by minimizing an associated error function.