Dynamic Programming: An Approach to Solving Computing Problems

Sometimes in computer science, you will run into problems. You can divide these into subproblems, which can, in turn, be divided into smaller subproblems. If the smaller subproblems overlap, then you can save the result in memory for future reference. This way, you don’t need to compute the same result multiple times, thus increasing the efficiency of the program substantially. This way of solving these problems is referred to as dynamic programming.

Dynamic Programming – Learn to Solve Algorithmic Problems & Coding Challenges. | Video: freeCodeCamp.org

In this article, you will learn what dynamic programming is. I will also show how to compute Fibonacci numbers, which is a simple problem that dynamic programming can solve. I will compare the dynamic programming solutions to the naive solution that uses recursion. These examples are written in Python syntax. Finally, I’ll also give some general pointers to keep in mind when attempting to solve problems using dynamic programming

Dynamic programming

Dynamic programming is an efficient method for solving computing problems by saving solutions in memory for future reference. When you have overlapping subproblems, you can apply dynamic programming to save time and increase program efficiency. 

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What Types of Problems Can Dynamic Programming Solve?

Dynamic programming is typically a way to optimize solutions to certain problems that use recursion. If a recursive solution to a problem has to compute solutions for subproblems with the same inputs repeatedly, then you can optimize it through dynamic programming. As mentioned earlier, in this case, you would simply save the result of the computation for use later if and when it’s needed. This optimization can reduce the time complexity of an algorithm from exponential time to polynomial time. This means that the number of computations n scales like a polynomial expression instead of scaling like an exponential expression as n increases. In general, polynomial expressions grow much slower than exponential expressions.

There are two conditions that need to be satisfied to use dynamic programming:

  1. Overlapping subproblems
  2. Optimal substructure property


What Are Overlapping Subproblems?

I alluded to

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