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Jellyman102's blog

By Jellyman102, history, 3 years ago,

I'm currently in the process of writing a contest for my school (not public). Since I don't have a lot of experience with writing problems, I wanted to see if problem setters or others with writing experience have any advice or procedures they like to follow when organizing contests. Do you think to yourself "I want to write a DP problem here" and work backwards or do you first brainstorm a scenario and work from there? Let me know in the comments, I'm curious.

Note: I don't need help with using polygon, writing testers, or anything like that. I just want to spark discussion about coming up with creative ideas for the problems themselves. I think it will be interesting to see if people take different approaches.

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By Jellyman102, history, 4 years ago,

Author's Disclaimer: This is my first blog in a series of blogs I plan on writing that introduce various types of problems to beginner competitive programmers through providing new ideas and proposing questions about them. That being said, whenever I ask "why?" in parenthesis, this is not me asking because I don't know. This is me encouraging you to stop and think through why something I said is true. I don't want to just give answers, I want to provoke thought. This is how we learn. If you're stuck, feel free to ask in the comments. I am purposefully leaving implementations vague.

Basic Sum Queries (Prefix Sums)

Let's say we have some array $A$ = $A_{1}$, $A_{2}$, ..., $A_{n}$. Given two indices $i$ and $j$, we are tasked to find the following sum.

$\sum\limits_{k=i}^{j} A_{k}$

For those unfamiliar with the notation, this is simply $A_{i} + A_{i+1} + ... + A_{j}$. If you don't understand the notation, use this fact to try and deduce what it means. This is important, as I will not explain notation further later on!

We could do this by iterating over each element and adding it to a sum which is initially 0. The complexity of this is $O(n)$ (why?), which is too slow if we are processing a bunch of these queries.

Instead, we can generate some useful information about each index in $O(n)$ and then solve each query in $O(1)$. Let $dp_{i} = \sum\limits_{k=0}^{i} A_{k}$. Thus, $\sum\limits_{k=i}^{j} A_{k} = dp_{j} - dp_{i-1}$. Stop and think about why this is true (it is very important that you understand this). Also, think about why you need to watch the $i=0$ case!

These $dp$ values can be stored in another array (or you can change the original array if you're feeling edgy that day and the problem allows it).

Note: This is technically really simple dp, but I'm in a small minority by actually notating it this way. Most people put psums in a different category.

This is the cses problem that correlates with this skill: https://cses.fi/problemset/task/1646

Next, try using prefix sums to solve this: 466C - Number of Ways

Sum Queries with a BIT

Note: BITs are probably more confusing than segment trees, so if this looks terrifying don't be afraid to skip this section.

Let's say we have the same task but an extra challenge is added. A new type of query is introduced in which we must add some value to one of the elements in the array. If we were to keep using the prefix sum method, suddenly we would have to rebuild the $dp$ array each time this type of query is called upon (why?). This is where a binary indexed tree (also known as a Fenwick tree) comes in. This uses bit operations (more precisely, powers of 2) to solve both types of queries in $O(\log n)$.

The main idea behind easily implementing this is that the largest power of two that divides some integer $k$ is k&(-k) (why?). We'll notate the largest power of two that divides $k$ as $☺(k)$ (this is obviously not official notation, please don't use it elsewhere or people will laugh at you). We then build a new array (we'll call it $T$ for tree) such that $T_{k}$ contains the sum of all elements in the sub-array that is of length $☺(k)$ and ends at index k.

To compute $\sum\limits_{i=0}^{k} A_{k}$, let $j = k$. Then, while(j > 0){ sum += T[j]; j -= j&(-j); }. Think about how you could use this to find the sum of all values in a range that doesn't start at the first element (you just did this with prefix sums). As an exercise for the reader, try to think about how updating a value would work.

Hint

Both of these operations occur in $O(\log n)$ (why?).

This is a very confusing topic. Here is a diagram that may help (pulled from the cses handbook and edited for generalization purposes). This is also a good reminder to NOT make your BITs zero-based!

This is the cses problem that correlates with this skill: https://cses.fi/problemset/task/1648

Next, try to use a BIT to find the amount of inversions in an array. Don't be discouraged, this may be challenging! An inversion is a pair of indices $i < j$ such that $A_{i} > A{j}$.

Segment Trees (Iterative Implementation)

Firstly, I am only discussing the iterative implementation here. Many believe that the recursive version is easier to understand. If this interests you, I encourage you to learn the recursive implementation elsewhere. Keep reading, however, since this section should still explain what a segtree is regardless of how I code it.

Let's say the task is no longer to find the sum of all elements in a range, but rather the minimum, maximum, or some other attribute of the range that would normally require an $O(n)$ iteration. Segment trees can do these efficiently ($O(\log n)$) and are often easier to understand than BITs (which can only handle sum queries). Before I get into detail, here's a diagram (again, copied and modified from the cses handbook) that should give you a pretty good idea of what we're working with.

Let's say we're working with minimum range queries. In other words, what is the minimum value in the range $[a,b]$. We use the fact that each note in this diagram (the original array is the bottom row) is the minimum of the two nodes below it. We can actually store this segment tree in an array $T$ that is twice the size of the original array such that $T_{i} = min(T_{2i}, T_{2i+1})$. These, similarly to BITs, should NOT be zero based.

Let $n$ be the size of the original array and we want to find the minimum value in $[a,b]$. First, add $n$ to both $a$ and $b$ since the original array is actually stored in the second half of $T$, which is the data we will be working with. Then, we'll let res=INF where INF is some arbitrarily large value (infinity). Below is an iterative implementation of a minimum query with this segment tree we built.

a /= 2; b /= 2; is simply moving up the tree (why?). Also, knowing that the modulus operations (a%2 and b%2) tell us whether a and b are right children or left children, consider why we only apply the operations in these certain conditions (refer back to the picture!).

I know this description is vague, but I am confident that anyone reading this, even if it takes a while, can think through why these things I'm saying are true. Trust me, it's very good for you!

You can edit values in the original array with a segment tree as well. Once you change the value at index $i$, divide $i$ by two and do this: while(i >= 1){ T[i] = min(T[2*i], T[2*i+1]); i /= 2; } (are you starting to see why this should NOT be zero-based?). The contents of this loop will vary depending on what your segment tree does.

Above I explained a segment tree build for minimum queries. Test your knowledge of this content with this cses problem: https://cses.fi/problemset/task/1649

Next, go back to the problem I gave you for the BIT and solve it with a segment tree instead: https://cses.fi/problemset/task/1648

Next, let's explore using a different operation: XOR. Solve this other cses problem (note that we don't need to update values in this one!): https://cses.fi/problemset/task/1650

Closing Thoughts

Firstly, thanks for reading this far. I was nervous writing a blog like this since it will most likely fall into one of two categories: too easy for the experienced or not enough detail for the learner. The reason I did this was to introduce a new kind of interactive learning. I encourage everyone who is trying to learn new topics to pick up as much as they can from their own intuition and exploration. I don't want to discourage people who can't figure some of this out. That's ok! I started with a harder topic for a reason. Please let me know what you guys think in the comments. What topics do you want to see next? Do you like this more interactive style of learning or would you prefer more answers than questions? Are there any mistakes I made?

Thanks for reading. Happy coding! -Jellyman

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By Jellyman102, history, 4 years ago,

Since my previous blog (using dy/dx arrays on grids) seemed to be helpful for some beginners, I wanted to share another very common trick that saves time with dp (and other optimization problems) and is much less error prone than it's counterpart. Again, this is a very minor trick and won't make the difference between solving a problem and missing it, but it's helpful to understand how it works in case you want to try it at some point (many LGMs have this in their templates). Somewhere in your template, start by writing these two functions.

bool ckmin(int& a, int b){ return b < a ? a = b, true : false; }

bool ckmax(int& a, int b){ return b > a ? a = b, true : false; }

We'll talk about ckmin since ckmax does the same thing but with max. Let's say you want to find the number of integers in an array that are smaller than all the integers before it. To solve this in O(n), simply maintain int ans = 0 and int currMin = INF and iterate over the array. Normally you may see something like this:

if(a[i] < currMin){ currMin = a[i]; ans++; }

While this works, the functions I posted above can be used like so:

if(ckmin(currMin, a[i])) ans++;

If you look closely at the implementation of ckmin, it should be clear that these two are identical.

Although it seems like a practically useless detail, using ckmin and ckmax can be much less error prone in more difficult problems and can lead to very clean dp implementations (such as 0-1 knapsack, which I would put here if I knew how formatting code actually works on these blogs).

I hope this makes sense. If I think of more common tricks to explain in the future I'll post about it so keep your eyes open.

• Jellyman
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By Jellyman102, 4 years ago,

Although a lot of people do this, I wanted to write a blog about how the following line of template code can help when solving a problem involving BFS on a grid or iterating over adjacent cells.

const int dx[4] = {1,0,-1,0}, dy[4] = {0,1,0,-1};

The way this works is quite simple. First, create a for loop like this:

for(int i = 0; i < 4; i++){

Then, using the x and y of the current cell, store the coordinates of the adjacent cell in newX and newY (or however you want to name your variables).

newX = x + dx[i]; newY = y + dy[i];

Now you can do whatever you need to do with newX and newY within the for loop (whether it's pushing to a queue for BFS or running some conditional). Make sure you check for out of bounds (which can be done with the function below).

bool ok(int x, int y) { return x >= 0 && y >= 0 && x < n && y < m; }

I know this is quite basic and a very common tactic, but I felt the need to write this to serve as an introduction to this technique for newer CPers. Hopefully this will save somebody lots of time. Feel free to share your techniques with grid problems in the comments.

Stay Safe! — Jellyman

NOTE: This is my first blog. Sorry if the formatting is garbage.

EDIT: Here is my solution to a problem I solved in a recent div 2 contest using this technique: 82826532

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