Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Polycarp At The Radio - Importance of maths in programming!

Many people argue among themselves whether maths is important or not, when it comes to programming. I don't indulge in these arguments, neither this post is going to do anything similar.

But recently I tried to solve a problem which made me realize the importance of mathematical intuition when it comes to programming.

I started to solve this problem on Codeforces, Polycarp At the Radio, and hit sort of a dead end for more than a day.  But something got me hooked to this question. There was nothing special about it. No difficult algorithm tags. And still I was finding it difficult to code.

But I went on to code what I thought to be a good enough code to pass all the test cases. And no, I just didn't start monkey-typing on my keyboard. Yet the end result was around 200 lines of python code, with a lot of comments and debugging statements hidden within it.

And it doesn't stop there. My code still failed on a test case I knew of, I wasn't sure if there still exist other test cases it might fail upon, and just when things seemed to make sense, I realized I had no idea in hell or heaven how to change my code to pass this particular test case.


Finally, I gave up, and read the tutorial given for the same. And I just couldn't express how beautiful the solution is. So simple, so intuitive. I can't even say it to be mathematical. But something definitely mathematically intuitive.

And the code was just 40 lines long, with complete surety that it will work for all the test cases, whatever it may be! And this is why, my boy, mathematical intuition is important in programming.

I am linking a github gist here, containing both the buggy and the correct codes, to show how complex a program can get because of the lack of simple mathematical intuition.

Just give this puzzle a try before you hop on to another post of someone else! :)

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