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Algorithms for dividing an array into n parts

This is a variant of the partition problem (see for details). In fact a solution to this can solve that one (take an array, pad with 0s, and then solve this problem) so this problem is NP hard.

There is a dynamic programming approach that is pseudo-polynomial. For each i from 0 to the size of the array, you keep track of all possible combinations of current sizes for the sub arrays, and their current sums. As long as there are a limited number possible sums of subsets of the array, this runs acceptably fast.

The solution that I would have suggested is to just go for "good enough" closeness. First let's consider the simpler problem with all values positive. Then sort by value descending. Take that array in threes. Build up the three subsets by always adding the largest of the triple to the one with the smallest sum, the smallest to the one with the largest, and the middle to the middle. You will end up dividing the array evenly, and the difference will be no more than the value of the third smallest element.

For the general case you can divide into positive and negative, use the above approach on each, and then brute force all combinations of a group of positives, a group of negatives, and the few leftover values in the middle that did not divide evenly.

Categories : Algorithm

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