What is an algorithm?

What algorithm we call an ordered and finite set of simple operations through which we can find the solution to a problem.

The word algorithm comes from the late Latin alborarismusand this in turn is an abbreviation of classical Arabic ḥisābu lḡubārwhich means ‘calculation using Arabic numerals’.

Algorithms allow us to execute an action or solve a problem through a series of defined, ordered and finite instructions. Thus, given an initial state and an input, and following the successive steps indicated, the final state is reached and a solution is obtained.

Characteristics of an algorithm

Every algorithm must meet these basic characteristics:

  • They have a beginning and an end: every algorithm begins in an initial state with a series of specific data, and ends with a solution or output.
  • They work in sequence: An algorithm is made up of a series of ordered steps.
  • sequences are concrete: each step is clear and leaves no room for ambiguity.
  • Algorithms are abstract: they are models or guides to order processes.
  • The number of steps in an algorithm is finite.

Algorithm Examples

Although it is a common term in areas such as mathematics, computer science, logic and other related disciplines, the truth is that in everyday life we ​​also use algorithms to solve problems, for example

Kitchen Recipes

They explain the step by step to create a meal with a finite amount of ingredients. The initial state would be the raw ingredients and the final state would be the prepared food.

You may be interested:  Patent


They serve as a guide to execute processes, from how to build a library to how to activate a mobile phone. In these cases, the final state is the product assembled, installed, switched on, in operation, etc.

Mathematical operations

In mathematics, some examples of algorithms are multiplication, where we follow a sequence of operations to obtain a product; or division, which allows us to determine the quotient of two numbers. Euclid’s algorithm, with which we find the greatest common divisor of two positive integers, is another example of an algorithm.

Algorithms can be represented graphically through a flowchart.

See also Flowchart.

Algorithm in computing

In computer science or programming, the algorithm is the sequence of instructions through which we can solve a problem or question.

In fact, all the tasks executed by the computer are based on algorithms. A software or computer program is designed based on algorithms, so that we can introduce a task in it and solve it.

See also:

  • Programming.
  • Metalanguage.