Maximizing Product of Minimum Element and Sublist Size in Python

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πŸ’‘ Problem Formulation: This article addresses the challenge of finding a sublist within a list of integers such that the product of the smallest number in the sublist (minimum of a) and the size of the sublist is maximized. For instance, given the list [1, 4, 3, 2], the optimal solution would be the sublist [4, 3] or [3, 2], both with a product of 6 (minimum element 3 times the size of the sublist 2).

Method 1: Brute Force Approach

The brute force approach involves checking all possible sublists and calculating the product of the minimum of a and the size of a. Although straightforward, this method is not efficient for large lists due to its O(n^3) time complexity.

Here’s an example:

def max_product_sublist(lst):
    max_product = 0
    for i in range(len(lst)):
        for j in range(i+1, len(lst)+1):
            sublist = lst[i:j]
            product = min(sublist) * len(sublist)
            max_product = max(max_product, product)
    return max_product

print(max_product_sublist([1, 4, 3, 2]))

Output: 6

This code snippet defines a function max_product_sublist that takes a list and iterates through all possible sublists. It computes the product of the minimum element and the size of each sublist and keeps track of the maximum product found.

Method 2: Two-Pointer Technique

The two-pointer technique is an optimization over the brute force approach. It involves using two indices to traverse the list and dynamically adjusting them based on the value of the elements encountered. This method has better performance with a complexity of O(n log n).

Here’s an example:

def max_product_sublist_two_pointers(lst):
    max_product = 0
    left, right = 0, len(lst) - 1
    while left <= right:
        while left <= right and lst[left] * (right - left + 1) <= max_product:
            left += 1
        if left <= right:
            max_product = max(max_product, lst[left] * (right - left + 1))
        right -= 1

    return max_product

print(max_product_sublist_two_pointers([1, 4, 3, 2]))

Output: 6

In this snippet, the max_product_sublist_two_pointers function starts by sorting the list. It then uses two pointers, left and right, to scan through the list from both ends, updating the max product as the pointers converge.

Method 3: Stack Based Approach

The stack-based approach is an even more optimized solution with a time complexity of O(n). It involves using a stack to keep track of potential sublists and their respective minimums to efficiently calculate the optimal product.

Here’s an example:

def max_product_sublist_stack(lst):
    stack = []
    max_product = 0

    for i, num in enumerate(lst):
        while stack and lst[stack[-1]] > num:
            height = lst[stack.pop()]
            width = i if not stack else i - stack[-1] - 1
            max_product = max(max_product, height * width)
    return max_product

print(max_product_sublist_stack([1, 4, 3, 2]))

Output: 6

The function max_product_sublist_stack uses a stack to keep track of indices of elements. It iterates over lst, popping from the stack when the current number is less than the stack’s top and computing the maximum product from the elements corresponding to these indices.

Method 4: Divide and Conquer

This method applies the divide-and-conquer strategy to split the list into smaller sublists and find local maximum products, which are then combined to determine the global maximum. Though a bit more complex, this approach has a time complexity of O(n log n).

Here’s an example:

def max_product_sublist_divide_and_conquer(lst, low, high):
    if low == high:
        return lst[low]
    mid = (low + high) // 2

    # Calculate the maximum product in sublists
    left_max = max_product_sublist_divide_and_conquer(lst, low, mid)
    right_max = max_product_sublist_divide_and_conquer(lst, mid + 1, high)

    # Calculate the maximum product crossing the mid-point
    min_val = float('inf')
    product = 0
    for i in range(mid, low - 1, -1):
        min_val = min(min_val, lst[i])
        product = max(product, min_val * (mid - i + 1))

    min_val = float('inf')
    for i in range(mid + 1, high + 1):
        min_val = min(min_val, lst[i])
        product = max(product, min_val * (i - mid))

    return max(left_max, right_max, product)

lst = [1, 4, 3, 2]
print(max_product_sublist_divide_and_conquer(lst, 0, len(lst)-1))

Output: 6

Using the function max_product_sublist_divide_and_conquer, the list is divided into halves, and the maximum products are computed for each half separately. Additionally, the maximum product crossing the middle is determined, and the largest of the three products is returned.

Bonus One-Liner Method 5: Pythonic Approach with List Comprehensions

For Python enthusiasts, a pythonic one-liner may use list comprehensions to achieve the same result, albeit less efficiently, as it is essentially a condensed brute force method.

Here’s an example:

max_product_sublist_one_liner = lambda lst: max(min(lst[i:j]) * (j - i) for i in range(len(lst)) for j in range(i+1, len(lst)+1))

print(max_product_sublist_one_liner([1, 4, 3, 2]))

Output: 6

This one-liner uses a lambda function containing a list comprehension that iterates over all sublists within lst, calculates their product, and finds the maximum.


  • Method 1: Brute Force Approach. Simple to understand and implement. Not suitable for large lists due to poor performance.
  • Method 2: Two-Pointer Technique. Better optimization. Suitable for sorted lists, but requires sorting which can add overhead.
  • Method 3: Stack Based Approach. Most efficient with O(n). Can handle lists of all sizes effectively but requires understanding of stack operations.
  • Method 4: Divide and Conquer. Logarithmic time complexity. The recursive nature can be tricky to understand but is powerful for large datasets.
  • Method 5: Pythonic Approach. Concise and expressive. Good for small lists or as a quick-and-dirty solution, but inefficient for larger data sets.