A Complete Guide to Dynamic Programming

Dynamic Programming is a problem-solving technique based on the principle of overlapping subproblems and optimal substructure. The fundamental idea behind dynamic programming is to solve each subproblem only once and store its solution, avoiding redundant computations. This approach leads to significant efficiency gains, especially for problems with overlapping subproblems, where the same subproblems recur multiple times.

Topics Covered in this PDF:

  • What is Dynamic Programming
  • Approaches of dynamic programming
  • Elements of dynamic programming
  • LCS (Longest Common Subsequence)
  • MCM (Matrix Chain Multiplication)

In the below PDF we discuss about Dynamic Programming in detail in simple language, Hope this will help in better understanding.

Approaches of dynamic programming:

There are two approaches to dynamic programming:

  1. Top-down approach
  2. Bottom-up approach

1. Top-down (Memoization) Approach:

In this approach, also known as memoization, the problem is solved recursively by dividing it into smaller subproblems. However, to avoid redundant calculations, the solutions to subproblems are stored in a data structure (typically a table or array) so that they can be reused when needed. This approach is well-suited for problems with overlapping subproblems.

2. Bottom-up (Tabulation) Approach:

In the bottom-up approach, also known as tabulation, the problem is solved iteratively by starting with the simplest subproblems and gradually building up to the desired solution. The solutions to subproblems are computed and stored in a table or array, and each subsequent solution depends only on previously computed solutions. This approach is often more space-efficient than the top-down approach.

Here are some examples of problems commonly solved using dynamic programming:

  • Longest Increasing Subsequence (LIS): The longest common subsequence problem involves finding the longest subsequence that is common to two sequences. Dynamic programming can be used to efficiently solve this problem by breaking it down into smaller subproblems and building up the solution iteratively..
  • Matrix Chain Multiplication: Given a sequence of matrices, determine the most efficient way to multiply them together. Dynamic programming can be used to minimize the number of scalar multiplications required by considering different parenthesizations of the matrices.

Elements of Dynamic Programming:

Dynamic programming is a problem-solving technique used to efficiently solve optimization problems by breaking them down into simpler subproblems. The key elements of dynamic programming include:

  • Optimal Substructure: Dynamic programming relies on the optimal substructure property, which states that an optimal solution to a problem can be constructed from optimal solutions to its subproblems. This property allows dynamic programming algorithms to efficiently solve complex problems by breaking them down into smaller, more manageable subproblems.
  • Overlapping Subproblems: Many dynamic programming problems exhibit overlapping subproblems, meaning that the same subproblems are solved multiple times during the computation. Dynamic programming algorithms store the solutions to these subproblems in a data structure (such as a table or array) to avoid redundant computation and improve efficiency.
  • Memoization (Top-Down Approach): Memoization is a technique used in the top-down approach of dynamic programming. It involves storing the solutions to subproblems in a data structure (typically a hash table or array) so that they can be reused when needed. Memoization prevents redundant calculations by caching the results of subproblems as they are solved recursively.
  • Tabulation (Bottom-Up Approach): Tabulation is a technique used in the bottom-up approach of dynamic programming. It involves solving subproblems iteratively from the smallest to the largest and storing their solutions in a table or array. Tabulation builds up the solutions to larger subproblems based on previously computed solutions, without the need for recursion.
  • State Representation: Dynamic programming algorithms often require defining a state representation that captures the essential information needed to solve the problem. The state typically encapsulates the variables or parameters that define the problem’s current state and influence the transition to subsequent states. Choosing an appropriate state representation is crucial for designing effective dynamic programming algorithms.
  • Recurrence Relations: Dynamic programming algorithms are typically defined by recurrence relations, which describe the relationship between a problem and its subproblems. These recurrence relations express how the solution to a problem can be computed recursively based on solutions to smaller subproblems. Analyzing and deriving recurrence relations is a fundamental step in designing dynamic programming algorithms.
  • Optimization Criteria: Dynamic programming problems often involve optimizing a certain objective function or criteria, such as maximizing profit, minimizing cost, or finding the longest/shortest path. Defining the optimization criteria accurately and understanding how it relates to the problem’s structure is essential for designing effective dynamic programming algorithms.


Dynamic programming is a powerful problem-solving technique that offers significant efficiency gains by breaking down complex problems into simpler subproblems and solving each subproblem only once. By leveraging memoization and tabulation, dynamic programming allows us to tackle a wide range of problems efficiently, from calculating Fibonacci numbers to solving optimization problems like the knapsack problem. Mastering dynamic programming is essential for any aspiring computer scientist or programmer looking to tackle challenging problems with elegance and efficiency.

Related Question

Dynamic programming is a method for solving complex problems by breaking them down into simpler subproblems and solving each subproblem only once. It stores the solutions to subproblems in memory so that they do not need to be recomputed, which can lead to significant efficiency improvements.

Memoization is an approach in dynamic programming where the results of expensive function calls are cached and reused, rather than recomputed, when the same inputs occur again.

Tabulation is an approach in dynamic programming where the solution to a problem is built iteratively by solving smaller subproblems first and storing their solutions in a table, typically in a bottom-up manner.

Dynamic programming is commonly used in various fields such as computer science, operations research, economics, and bioinformatics. Some applications include shortest path algorithms, sequence alignment, resource allocation, and scheduling problems.

Linear recurrence relations have terms that are linear combinations of previous terms, like the Fibonacci sequence. Nonlinear recurrence relations involve nonlinear combinations, making them more complex to solve.


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