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  1. Getting Started with Algorithm
    What is an Algorithm?
  2. Characteristics of Algorithm
    1 Topic
  3. Analysis Framework
  4. Performance Analysis
    3 Topics
  5. Mathematical Analysis
    2 Topics
  6. Sorting Algorithm
    Sorting Algorithm
    10 Topics
  7. Searching Algorithm
    6 Topics
  8. Fundamental of Data Structures
  9. Queues
  10. Graphs
  11. Trees
  12. Sets
  13. Dictionaries
  14. Divide and Conquer
    General Method
  15. Binary Search
  16. Recurrence Equation for Divide and Conquer
  17. Finding the Maximum and Minimum
  18. Merge Sort
  19. Quick Sort
  20. Stassen’s Matrix Multiplication
  21. Advantages and Disadvantages of Divide and Conquer
  22. Decrease and Conquer
    Insertion Sort
  23. Topological Sort
  24. Greedy Method
    General Method
  25. Coin Change Problem
  26. Knapsack Problem
  27. Job Sequencing with Deadlines
  28. Minimum Cost Spanning Trees
    2 Topics
  29. Single Source Shortest Paths
    1 Topic
  30. Optimal Tree Problem
    1 Topic
  31. Transform and Conquer Approach
    1 Topic
  32. Dynamic Programming
    General Method with Examples
  33. Multistage Graphs
  34. Transitive Closure
    1 Topic
  35. All Pairs Shortest Paths
    6 Topics
  36. Backtracking
    General Method
  37. N-Queens Problem
  38. Sum of Subsets problem
  39. Graph Coloring
  40. Hamiltonian Cycles
  41. Branch and Bound
    2 Topics
  42. 0/1 Knapsack problem
    2 Topics
  43. NP-Complete and NP-Hard Problems
    1 Topic
Lesson 21 of 43
In Progress

Advantages and Disadvantages of Divide and Conquer


1.Solving difficult problems

Divide and conquer is a powerful tool for solving conceptually difficult problems: all it requires is a way of breaking the problem into sub-problems, of solving the trivial cases and of combining sub-problems to the original problem. Similarly, decrease and conquer only requires reducing the problem to a single smaller problem, such as the classic Tower of Hanoi puzzle, which reduces moving a tower of height n to moving a tower of height n − 1.

2.Algorithm efficiency

The divide-and-conquer paradigm often helps in the discovery of efficient algorithms. It was the key, for example, to Karatsuba’s fast multiplication method, the quicksort and mergesort algorithms, the Strassen algorithm for matrix multiplication, and fast Fourier transforms.

In all these examples, the Divide and Conquer approach led to an improvement in the asymptotic cost of the solution. For example, if (a) the base cases have constant-bounded size, the work of splitting the problem and combining the partial solutions is proportional to the problem’s size n, and (b) there is a bounded number p of subproblems of size ~ n/p at each stage, then the cost of the divide-and-conquer algorithm will be O(n logpn).


Divide and conquer algorithms are naturally adapted for execution in multi-processor machines, especially shared-memory systems where the communication of data between processors does not need to be planned in advance, because distinct sub-problems can be executed on different processors.

4.Memory access

Divide-and-conquer algorithms naturally tend to make efficient use of memory caches. The reason is that once a sub-problem is small enough, it and all its sub-problems can, in principle, be solved within the cache, without accessing the slower main memory. An algorithm designed to exploit the cache in this way is called cache-oblivious, because it does not contain the cache size as an explicit parameter. Moreover, D&C algorithms can be designed for important algorithms (e.g., sorting, FFTs, and matrix multiplication) to be optimal cache-oblivious algorithms–they use the cache in a probably optimal way, in an asymptotic sense, regardless of the cache size. In contrast, the traditional approach to exploiting the cache is blocking, as in loop nest optimization, where the problem is explicitly divided into chunks of the appropriate size—this can also use the cache optimally, but only when the algorithm is tuned for the specific cache size(s) of a particular machine.

5.Roundoff control

In computations with rounded arithmetic, e.g. with floating point numbers, a divide-and-conquer algorithm may yield more accurate results than a superficially equivalent iterative method. For example, one can add N numbers either by a simple loop that adds each datum to a single variable, or by a D&C algorithm called pairwise summation that breaks the data set into two halves, recursively computes the sum of each half, and then adds the two sums. While the second method performs the same number of additions as the first, and pays the overhead of the recursive calls, it is usually more accurate.


One of the most common issues with this sort of algorithm is the fact that the recursion is slow, which in some cases outweighs any advantages of this divide and conquer process.

Another concern with it is the fact that sometimes it can become more complicated than a basic iterative approach, especially in cases with a large n. In other words, if someone wanted to add a large amount of numbers together, if they just create a simple loop to add them together, it would turn out to be a much simpler approach than it would be to divide the numbers up into two groups, add these groups recursively, and then add the sums of the two groups together.

Another downfall is that sometimes once the problem is broken down into sub problems, the same sub problem can occur many times. In cases like these, it can often be easier to identify and save the solution to the repeated sub problem, which is commonly referred to as memorization.

The last recognizable implementation issue is that these algorithms can be carried out by a non-recursive program that will store the different sub problems in things called explicit stacks, which gives more freedom in deciding just which order the sub problems should be solved.

These implementation issues do not make this process a bad decision when it comes to solving difficult problems, but rather this paradigm is the basis of many frequently used algorithms.

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