Low-rank matrix approximations, such as the truncated singular value decomposition and the rank-revealing QR decomposition, play a central role in data analysis and scientific computing. This work surveys recent research which demonstrates that randomization offers a powerful tool for performing low-rank matrix approximation. These techniques exploit modern computational architectures more fully than classical methods and open the possibility of dealing with truly massive data sets. In particular, these techniques offer a route toward principal component analysis (PCA) for petascale data. This paper presents a modular framework for constructing randomized algorithms that compute partial matrix decompositions. These methods use random sampling to identify a subspace that captures most of the action of a matrix. The input matrix is then compressed—either explicitly or implicitly—to this subspace, and the reduced matrix is manipulated deterministically to obtain the desired low-rank factorization. In many cases, this approach beats its classical competitors in terms of accuracy, speed, and robustness. These claims are supported by extensive numerical experiments and a detailed error analysis. The specific benefits of randomized techniques depend on the computational environment. Consider the model problem of finding the k dominant components of the singular value decomposition of an m × n matrix. (i) For a dense input matrix, randomized algorithms require O(mn log(k)) floating-point operations (flops) in contrast with O(mnk) for classical algorithms. (ii) For a sparse input matrix, the flop count matches classical Krylov subspace methods, but the randomized approach is more robust and can be reorganized to exploit multi-processor architectures. (iii) For a matrix that is too large to fit in slow memory, the randomized techniques require only a constant number of passes over the data, as opposed to O(k) passes for classical algorithms. In fact, it is sometimes possible to perform matrix approximation with a single pass over the data.