Utsav's Blog

Maximum Subarray (Python)

Let’s work with the array:

[-5, 1, 2, -1, 4, -10]

We want to find the subarray with the maximum possible sum.

For the example above, the maximal subarray comprises the cells in blue.

Start and end of the array

The sum of this subarray is 6.

All other subarrays will have a lesser sum, for example, including the -10 will make the sum -4, and excluding the 4 will make it 2.

Our task is: Given an array, find the sum, start and end values for the maximal sum subarray.

Kadane’s solution for 1D

Kadane’s algorithm looks deceptively easy.

In the following solution, we use current_start and i to keep track of the current subarray. We maintain a running current_sum value for the subarray we’re currently considering.

Whenever we find the current_sum to be larger than the max sum (result[0]), we update the result (maximum sum, start and end indices).

def kadane(a):

  if not a:
    raise ValueError('Empty array!')
  current_sum, current_start = a[0], 0
  result = (current_sum, 0, 0)

  for i, item in enumerate(a[1:], start=1):

    if current_sum + item < item:
      # discard the previous subarray, it's not optimal
      current_start = i
      current_sum = item
      current_sum += item

    if current_sum > result[0]:
      # update the maximum sum and start and end indices
      result = (current_sum, current_start, i)

  return result

Here’s an example of running through this algorithm: