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In mathematics or computer science, an algorithm is a sequence of steps for one particular method of solving a problem, similar to the instructions of a recipe when cooking. The word is derived from the name of al-Khwarizmi, a Persian mathematician who was a librarian in Baghdad in the 9th century CE[1].


An algorithm consists of the steps to follow in solving a problem. When encoded in computer programs, algorithms operate on data values, preferably data maintained in a consistent data structure. Thus an algorithm is the recipe, while the data structure is the well-stored ingredients on which the recipe is designed to operate.

Nicklaus Wirth, the inventor of the programming language Pascal, titled one of his books "Algorithms + Data Structures = Programs" (ISBN 0130224189) to indicate the complementary nature of algorithms and data structures, and their centrality to computing.

Algorithms are usually expressed independently of the programming language, typically in terms of a brief, informal list of commands called pseudocode, or diagrammatically in the form of a flowchart.

Examples of different categories of algorithms used in computer programming include:

  • Bounding limit
  • Compression
  • Conversion
  • Encryption
  • Fourier transform
  • Geometric
  • Graphic
  • Numeric
  • Probabilistic
  • Searching
  • Sorting
  • Text string

Basic algorithm designs

There are several general methods for designing algorithms. Some of the most common are

Some well known algorithms


  1. BBC online article: How modern mathematics emerged from a lost Islamic library, last access 2/10/2021