5 Efficient Ways to Calculate nCr Values for All ‘r’ in Python

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πŸ’‘ Problem Formulation: In combinatorics, the combinations of n objects taken r at a time is denoted as nCr or C(n, r). The challenge is to programatically find nCr for all possible values of r (0 to n) efficiently in Python. For instance, if n is 5, we want to find C(5,0), C(5,1), C(5,2), C(5,3), C(5,4), and C(5,5).

Method 1: Using Iterative Approach

An effective way to compute the binomial coefficient nCr for all r in the range 0 to n is by iteratively calculating the values using the relationship C(n, r) = C(n, r-1) * (n-r+1) / r. This reduces time complexity significantly compared to naive implementations.

Here’s an example:

def compute_ncr_values(n):
    ncr_values = [1]
    for r in range(1, n + 1):
        ncr_value = ncr_values[r - 1] * (n - r + 1) // r
    return ncr_values


Output: [1, 5, 10, 10, 5, 1]

This code snippet defines a function compute_ncr_values(n) that iterates over the range from 1 to n, calculating each nCr based on the previous value. This method is efficient as it only requires O(n) time complexity and takes advantage of the iterative relationship between subsequent binomial coefficients.

Method 2: Using Recursion with Memoization

Recursion coupled with memoization stores the results of expensive function calls and returns the cached result when the same inputs occur again. This avoids the recalculation of already computed nCr values, providing efficiency in terms of time complexity.

Here’s an example:

def ncr_memo(n, r, memo={}):
    if r == 0 or n == r:
        return 1
    if (n, r) in memo:
        return memo[(n, r)]
    memo[(n, r)] = ncr_memo(n - 1, r - 1, memo) + ncr_memo(n - 1, r, memo)
    return memo[(n, r)]

print([ncr_memo(5, r) for r in range(6)])

Output: [1, 5, 10, 10, 5, 1]

The function ncr_memo(n, r, memo={}) recursively calculates nCr and uses a memoization dictionary to cache results. This method is effective when dealing with overlapping subproblems such as the repeated calculation of same nCr values, reducing the exponential time complexity of the naive recursive approach.

Method 3: Using Dynamic Programming

Dynamic Programming efficiently tackles problems by breaking them down into simpler subproblems and storing the solutions of these subproblems to avoid redundant work. The idea is to fill a table bottom-up with all the combination values.

Here’s an example:

def ncr_dynamic_programming(n):
    C = [[0 for _ in range(n+1)] for _ in range(n+1)]
    for i in range(n+1):
        for j in range(min(i, n)+1):
            if j == 0 or j == i:
                C[i][j] = 1
                C[i][j] = C[i-1][j-1] + C[i-1][j]
    return [C[n][r] for r in range(n+1)]


Output: [1, 5, 10, 10, 5, 1]

The ncr_dynamic_programming(n) function creates a two-dimensional list to store the calculated combination values, building the solution incrementally. Dynamic Programming is especially beneficial when many combination values need to be calculated since it avoids recomputation.

Method 4: Using Python’s math.comb() Function

With Python’s math module, calculating combinations becomes trivially easy. The math.comb() function provides a direct way to compute nCr. This is efficient for a small number of computations but involves a function call overhead for large n.

Here’s an example:

import math

def ncr_math_comb(n):
    return [math.comb(n, r) for r in range(n+1)]


Output: [1, 5, 10, 10, 5, 1]

The function ncr_math_comb(n) utilizes math.comb() for calculating the binomial coefficient in a straightforward and concise way. This method is highly readable and recommended for codes not performance-critical or with small values of n.

Bonus One-Liner Method 5: Using List Comprehension with math.comb()

For a quick and concise one-liner solution, we can combine list comprehension with the math.comb() function from Python’s standard library. This is perfect for quick computations or scripting activities.

Here’s an example:

import math

print([math.comb(5, r) for r in range(6)])

Output: [1, 5, 10, 10, 5, 1]

This simple one-liner uses list comprehension to generate a list of nCr values, iterating over the range of r values and applying math.comb() for each. It’s concise but doesn’t offer computational improvements over the other methods mentioned.


  • Method 1: Iterative Approach. Efficient for large n. Simple iterative relationship.
  • Method 2: Recursion with Memoization. Ideal for overlapping subproblems. Caches results to reduce time complexity.
  • Method 3: Dynamic Programming. Best for batches of combination computations. Avoids redundant calculations.
  • Method 4: Python’s math.comb(). Quick and easy to use for small datasets. Involves function call overhead.
  • Method 5: One-Liner using List Comprehension. Great for simple scripts. Readable but not necessarily performance-oriented.