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Function Memoization in Scala and Haskell

6 Feb 2012

Project Euler problem 15 is an interesting case for optimization by memoization. The problem states:

Starting in the top left corner of a 2x2 grid, there are 6 routes (without backtracking) to the bottom right corner.

Project Euler problem 15

How many routes are there through a 20x20 grid?

Ignoring the mathematical shortcuts available for this problem, the direct solution is straightforward.


def problem15(coord: (Long, Long)): Long = coord match {
    case (0, _) => 1
    case (_, 0) => 1
    case (x, y) => problem15(x-1, y) + problem15(x, y-1)


problem15 :: Int -> Int -> Integer
problem15 _ 0 = 1
problem15 0 _ = 1
problem15 x y = problem15 (x-1) y + problem15 x (y-1)

Both of these do the job, but are terribly inefficient since each subset of the grid is recomputed for each superset. Enter memoization. In Scala, we need to do a little work to extract the fixed-point combinator that will be used to collect the memoized values of our function.

def Y[A,B](f: (A => B) => (A => B)): (A => B) = {
  val cache = collection.mutable.HashMap[A,B]()
  def fix(f: (A => B) => (A => B)): (A => B) = { a: A =>
    if (!cache.contains(a)) { 
      cache(a) = f(fix(f))(a)

This Y combinator encapsulates the recursive invocation and collection of an arbitrary function A => B, so I can use a mutable Map but never leak that fact outside of the invocation of the combinator.

Unfortunately the implementation of problem15 above doesn't quite fit. Since I'm just a beginner, I opted to modify the implementation of problem15 to take just a single argument, rather than to figure out how to make a higher-order Y combinator. My approach is simply to convert the former x, y pairs into (x + x*h), where h is the height of the original grid.

def problem15m(x: Int, y: Int) = {
  val yf = Y { f: (Int => Long) => n: Int =>
    if (n < y) 1
    else if (n % y == 0) 1
    else f(n-1) + f(n-y)
  ((0 to x*y).map(yf)).sum

Now we get nice, linear complexity at the low cost of a temporary hash map in memory.

The memoized Haskell solution takes a similar approach, but takes major advantage of Haskell's laziness to avoid the explicit Y combinator + hash map implementation of above.


problem15m :: Int -> Int -> Integer
problem15m x y = 1 + (sum $ take (x*y) p15')
  where p15' = (map p15'' [0..])
        p15'' :: Int -> Integer
        p15'' n
          | n < y = 1
          | n `mod` y == 0 = 1
          | otherwise = (p15' !! (n-1)) + (p15' !! (n-y))

Pure sweetness.