Brain Warmers – Part 1

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Although reading the theory behind algorithms helps, you will gain the most if you combine it with working on your practical skills. Solving many easy exercises will build up your reflexes.

Algorithmic thinking, just like movement in sports, requires you to master certain shortcuts for acting faster. The only difference is that they happen at a higher level of thinking, a more abstract one. Thus, reflexes are critical because they contribute a lot to your thinking speed.

Similar to learning algorithms, unless your algorithmic reflexes are decent, you will spend more time understanding the problem, instead of exploring the solution to the problem. But this changes over time as you gain more problem solving experience.

A simple habit of solving one or two simple exercises in the morning or in your free time, will help you build those reflexes in a couple of months.

Have you noticed how your mind tries out different solutions when you struggle with a hard thinking problem? Well, having reflexes and a fast thinking ability will help you validate or discard more potential solutions for the problem in a given amount of time.

A frequent mistake that beginners do is to get stuck with one bad solution, which they gradually try to improve. But improving is not an option if the initial idea is flawed.

If you work as a programmer or engineer, improving your algorithmic skills will enable you to see better the pros and cons of a certain system architecture or several, and make more inspired decisions before implementing a change.

So now, let us warm up our neurons by solving a few ad hoc problems. The problems and exercises are meant to improve your intuition when seeking abstract solutions. They will open your algorithmic mind.

Exercises

  1. Upside Down
  2. Peak Finding
  3. Peak Counting
  4. Expand the Sequence
  5. Candy Jar
  6. First N Primes
  7. Smallest Common Multiple of N numbers
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