Persistent segment trees – Explained with spoj problems

In this post I will introduce the concept of persistent data structures. We shall deal with a couple of problems : COTMKTHNUM

Consider the following question :

Given a linked list, you need to support 2 operations. 1) Update the first x values. 2) Print the linked list after k’th update (k <= number of update operations made till now)

Simple solution is to create a new linked list after each update operation. print it when needed. Let us optimize it for memory.

We are only updating first x elements of the linked list. That means the new linked list will be almost same as previous linked list if x is small. We shall take advantage of this and avoid allocating memory for some elements. We can allocate memory for x elements, store new values in them, then point the next pointer of x’th node of new linked list to (x+1)’th node of previous linked list. This way we allocated only x units of memory per update operation.

Consider the following example.

Initial linked list : 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10.
Update 1 : x = 4, new elements : 12 13 14 15
Update 2 : x = 2, new elements : 20 21
Update 3 : x = 6, new elements : 1 2 3 4 5 6
Update 4 : x = 1, new elements : 100

Initial linked list will look like this


After first update total data will look like this


We allocated memory for first 4 nodes, stored values in them, then next pointer of 4th node is pointing to 5th node of 1st linked list.
Now if we want to print first linked list, we start with head[0]. If we want to print 2nd linked list we start with head[1].
Data will look like this after all updates

                                        /              |
 head[1]-->[12]-->[13]-->[14]-->[15]---'               |
                         /                            /
 head[2]-->[20]-->[21]--'                            /

We are done with it. Memory used is O(n+x1+x2..+xm), note that also the time complexity is reduced from O(n*n) to O(n+x1+x2+..+xm). This is useful when sum of x is in O(n), in that case total complexity will be O(n) (memory and time).

What we have build above is a Persistent data structure. I am done with introducing you to Persistent data structures, now I will explain Persistent segment trees with this SPOJ problem : COT

10628. Count on a tree – SPOJ – COT – Editorial and solution implementation

You are given a tree with N nodes.The tree nodes are numbered from 1 to N.Each node has an integer weight.
We will ask you to perform the following operation:

u v k : ask for the kth minimum weight on the path from node u to node v

Note : Time limits are very strict. My O(N * log N) solution passed only with fast IO.
Our goal is to come up with O(N * log N) solution.

We can binary search for the answer. Now for a fixed value x, we need to answer the number of nodes with value less than x on the path from node to node v. Let the number of such nodes be y. If is less than k, we have to consider values greater than x. In other case consider values less than x.

Now the question is, given u v x, we need to answer the number of nodes with value less than on the path from to v.
Let f(ux) be the number of nodes less than on the path from root to u.
We can formulate the required answer as follows :
f( ux) + f( vx) – f( lca(uv), x ) – f( parent( lca(uv) ), x )
where lca( uv ) is Lowest common ancestor of and v. It can be calculated in O( log N ) ( here and here )

Now the problem is further reduced, we just need to calculate function f. If the function f works in O( log N ) time, then we have an O( log N * log N ) solution per query. We shall see how function f can work in O( log N )

Let us use coordinate compression on values ( here ). Then we have all the values in the range [0, N).
Now assume that for each node of the tree, we have a segment tree build and ready to be used. segment tree is build in the following way : For a node u, all the nodes from root to u are considered, their respective compressed values are used to build the segment tree such that it will answer number of elements less than some  in O( log N ). This is exactly what the function f has to calculate. Hence if we have N segment trees, one per node, we can solve the problem in O( log N * log N ) per query. How to build such segment tree is left out. It is a standard problem.

Now the only issue left in this solution is building N segment trees, which may take O( N * N ) space and time. Let us use the concept which I introduced above to reduce the memory. Note that the segment tree for a node u is made with compressed values of nodes from root  to u. Now for any child of u, its segment tree of c is build with same values of node u, except that one new value is added, that is the value of current node c. Consider the addition of this new value like an update operation on segment tree of u. Then the update operation will change O(log N) nodes from last level to the 1st level. There you go, the new segment tree of node c is almost same as segment tree of u, except for O(log N) nodes. Hence we can only allocate memory for this new O(log N) nodes and reuse other nodes from old segment tree. We are allocating memory for O(log N) nodes per each node in the tree. Hence the total memory used will be O( N * log N ). Note that as the memory is reduced from O( N * N ) to O( N * log N ), time complexity is also reduced to O( N * log N ).

We are done with the O(N * log N + M * log N * log N) solution. We construct the segment trees in O(N * log N), then answer each query in O(log N * log N) (binary search + segment tree query). As I told you the time limits for the problem are very strict, and this solution will not pass. We need to modify it to O( (N+M) * log N ) to get it accepted.

Do we really need binary search? Can we merge it with the segment tree query? Yes. Here is how.
Start with the segment trees at four nodes (see  the formula we derived to understand which four nodes). Now check the number of elements in left sub tree, if it is greater than k, then our answer is present in left sub tree. If not it is present in right sub tree. This way we can travel the 4 segment tress at once and get the answer in O( log N ). Don’t worry if you did not understand this last step, looking at the code will make it clear.

Click here for code
( You will get TLE if you submit it on SPOJ, adding fast input output will give AC, I removed that module to keep the code small and clean)

3946. K-th Number – MKTHNUM – Editorial and solution implementation

Given an array a[1 … N] of different integer numbers, your program must answer a series of questions Q(i, j, k) in the form: “What would be the k-th number in a[i … j] segment, if this segment was sorted?

There are solutions which work in O( (N + M) * log N * log N ) or O( ( N + M * log N ) * log N * log N ), those solutions will give AC. I will describe O( (N+M) * log N ) solution.

Let us assume we have a segment tree for all N * N ranges. That is for each i, j such that 1 <= i <= j <= N we have a segment tree ready to be used. In this case we can answer the query in O( log N ) which is what we need to do. But building those segment trees will take O(N*N*N) time and memory. Like in previous problem let me concentrate on reducing memory which will in turn reduce time complexity.

Trick 1 : In segment tree for range (i, j) each node can be calculated from respective nodes in segment tree for range (1, i-1) and range (1, j). That is for each node in segment tree for range (i, j) : node for (i, j) = node for (1, j) – node for (1, i-1). Awesome. We only need O(N) segment trees now. One segment tree for each of the prefixes. (This trick works only because all input values are distinct, see why it wont work in other case)

Trick 2 : Segment tree for prefix i is almost same as segment tree for prefix i-1, except some O( log N ) nodes that will change. So once again we can reduce the memory to O( N * log N ).

Great, we are done with it. From O( N*N*N ) memory we reduced to O( N * log N ). Time complexity will be O( N * log N ). There you go, O( (N+M) * log N ) solution.

Click here for code

Related Problems

Codechef – QUERY – – Editorial
Codechef – SORTING –
Codeforces – – Editorial

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  • batchu madhuri

    Could any one explain why we need to remove f( parent( lca(u, v) ), x ) also in the following,

    “Let f(u, x) be the number of nodes less than x on the path from root to u.
    We can formulate the required answer as follows :
    f( u, x) + f( v, x) – f( lca(u, v), x ) – f( parent( lca(u, v) ), x )”

    Is it not enough if we do f( u, x) + f( v, x) – f( lca(u, v), x )

  • Kunal Kumar

    why we have to make n segment trees for each node

  • David Harmeyer

    Um, great tutorial, but it is presented in an odd way. You gave us an interesting problems about paths on a tree, then gave us the exact same problem but on segments of an array. Wouldn’t anyone who is even close to good enough to understand this just immediately make themselves a rope and submit the same code as before since the second problem is just the first problem but strictly easier.

    • Ku_Top

      So Correct Bruh. I think the two problem’s order should be swapped.

  • Tarun Khullar

    Thanks a lot for all your great blog posts on topics that are otherwise very difficult to understand but your explanation makes them look like a piece of cake. 🙂

  • Harsh Gupta

    Is the cordinate compression used only to reduce the memory usage? As only O(log N) nodes will be created for every insert operation.

  • Kamil Niziński

    Could we use the solution to the first problem to solve the second problem by firstly converting the input array into one long tree?

  • shubham swaraj jain

    hii anudeep , thanks for the amazing explanation.
    however i would like to suggest that whoever is finding it hard to solve or understand COT first (as was i ) should start with mkthnum it is quite easy.

  • neeraj

    I still did not get how can we find out kth element in range [l,r] if we know the kth element in range [0,l-1] and [0,r].

  • Pranav Raj

    Thanks for a great post!
    @Anudeep, Here, The prefix technique will work even for non distinct values because in implementation we are infact storing the frequency of the elements.

    • Tarun Khullar

      …and that’s exactly what we’ve done in COT, where we have non distinct elements.

  • Mahabir Sibam Senapati

    any one can explain why null->left=null->right=null is taken??
    what is happenning here??

  • Mahabir Sibam Senapati

    the first problem also can be solved without coordinate compression technique by using tries instead of using segment tree.

  • Arjan Bal

    what exactly is the logic behind line no.91 in the code for MKTHNUM? The code gives a seg fault without it, as it would try to update left and right children of root[0] which are NULL, but I couldn’t understand how that line solves the problem?

  • Shubham Sinha

    This will help in understanding mkthnum:spoj problem .It took me 3 days understanding the sort in segment tree w/o losing persistency. Nice problem.
    this code helps in understanding the logic

  • shivam shukla

    Can anyone tell me what do these lines mean in code of COT question
    node(int count, node *left, node *right):
    count(count), left(left), right(right) {}

    • Traveler

      just a constructor

    • Aditya Suripeddi


      using namespace std ;

      struct fruit {

      int a,b,c ;

      fruit(int p,int q, int r): a(p),b(q),c(r) {}

      void show() { cout << a << ' ' << b << ' ' << c << 'n' ;}

      int main(){

      fruit f = {1,2,3} ;;
      return 0 ;

    • vivek


  • Coder bae

    is not array implementation of persistent segment tree better? is there any downside compare to link list ?

  • Prateek Behera

    can someone explain me why we use coordinate compression.In the coordinate compression method we use grids of huge size .how we relate it to segment trees.

    • Kaushik

      It is because the weights of the nodes can be as huge as 10^9, and we can’t afford segment trees covering the range [1, 10^9]. So we use the fact that there exists only 10^5 weights and map all the weights to a number in range 1 to 10^5. It is one dimensional coordinate compression :). It will get more clear if you see the code provided.

  • Akshat

    And in MKTHNUM why did you say that if you had N^2 seg trees you could answer each query in log(N), you could rather have N^2 arrays and answer each query in O(1).

  • Akshat

    In the problem COT, I think the question isn’t clear. There is no info about what kind of tree is this, I mean how do we know that in the path 1->10 we need to go from 1->2->…->10, it depends on the tree right? Otherwise it should be mentioned that it is a linear array.

  • Jaswant Singh

    can you please explain DQUERY – D-query : using persistent tree :

  • Thanks for the great post!

    One question, how do you deal with interval update? We could use lazy flag in trivial segment tree, which allows us to delay interval operations to the future. When accessing lazy-flagged node, we simply pass it down to children nodes.

    In persistent segment tree, passing down a lazy flag could change the result of previous versions. When update(i, j), eventually in the worst case we need to create 2 * (j – i + 1) new nodes (basically a new segment tree for that interval) to prevent damage in previous versions. That is not memory efficient.

    Any idea?

  • @anudeep2011 What exactly is ‘count’ storing here?

  • Aatmaram

    Thanks for Sharing.

  • Xyleth

    I dont undertand how do you build your segment tree and how it works. Do yo have some resource to learn about that specific segment tree?

  • sunil

    @Anudeep Can you please explain MKTHNUM with example how code is working…

  • First of all thanks for such a great explanation. I wanted to another problem which can be done using Persistent segment tree.

    • Rohit

      Is there a way to solve that problem with Binary Search tree?

  • Thank you for this great post. 😀
    There is one point I haven’t gotten yet. Can you describe more the segment tree you use to find the number of nodes with value less than x on the path from root to u?

  • Can u elaborate the mkthnum lil more
    i know only basic segment tree and lazy propagation

  • parijat
  • Rodolfo Miquilarena

    hello , i have a question, i have been trying to solve this problem

    i think its this method (which is amazing) however i don’t know how to do a proper update on the tree because of how it is built, do you have any idea on how to do updates on the persistent segment tree DS? 🙂 i bet you do, thanks in advance.

  • jugal kishor sahu

    In your code

    struct node
    int count;
    node *left, *right;
    node(int count, node *left, node *right):
    count(count), left(left), right(right) {}
    node* insert(int l, int r, int w);

    how this insert works….can you provide some link so that i can get more…

  • For problem “COT”,
    you don’t need to use faster IO.
    just avoid “map”.
    instead of this , use binary search for data compression .
    i just edited your , and got AC.

  • I can’t undertand what do you mean by having segment tree for every interval,
    how would that segment tree look like , can you please elaborate on that?

  • Aditya

    A very powerful and detailed explanation. Thanks so much! Are there any other problems on SPOJ that require persistent segment trees so that I can practice the logic myself?

  • i has basic understanding of segment doubt is,
    we have to take array size of 2^n for make segment tree of n element array,then how to make segment tree of 30 or greater elements,because 2^30 = 1073741824
    then how to take array of this larger size for make segment tree,how to implement ?

    • anudeep2011

      You will not need 2^n space.
      Number of nodes in last level = N (Assume N is of the form 2^m for simplicity)
      Number of nodes in one level above = N/2
      Number of nodes in 2nd level = 2
      Number of nodes in 1st level = 1

      Total nodes = N + N/2 + N/4 + … N/(N/2) + N/N
      = N ( 1 + 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + …)
      = 2 * N (Why 2*N?)

  • niloy

    what to do when we have to update the values, such that, changing value of a index? then how to handle the tree?

    • anudeep2011

      It would still be the same. You will have a new node (with new values) in the last level of segment tree. Then there will be O(log N) updated nodes as we go levels up till the root.

      • shivam shukla

        Hello @anudeep2011 Sir ! what does this line in your code mean ?
        node(int count, node *left, node *right):
        count(count), left(left), right(right) {}

  • Dharmendra

    i dont know how is this working
    f( u, x) + f( v, x) – f( lca(u, v), x ) – f( parent( lca(u, v) ), x )
    what will happen if we do this
    f( u, x) + f( v, x) – 2*f( lca(u, v), x )

    • anudeep2011

      f( u, x) + f( v, x) – 2*f( lca(u, v), x ) – If this is done then the “lca(u, v)” node is not counted at all. It is added twice in initial 2 functions and again removed twice.

      Draw a simple tree. Consider random u, v nodes and check what happens for f(u) + f(v) – 2 * f( lca(u, v) ). Where f(u) means traveling from root to u and putting a dot on the node. -f(u) means traveling from root to u and erasing a dot on the node.

      At the end of your formula there should be exactly one dot on each node from u to v path.

  • sundar

    can you please explain this line “This trick works only because all input values are distinct”?I don’t understand why it doesn’t work if input values aren’t distinct.

    • anudeep2011

      Well it is both yes and no.
      Let us say we have 2 occurrences of 7. One at index 1 and another at index 10. Now our query is for [3, 12] so we take it like [1..12] – [1..2], we are actually removing the 7 but it is still present at index 10.

      We can modify the logic, instead of just storing presence of number, we can store count of number and it should work then.

  • Hey anudeep, can MKTHNUM be solved using fractional cascading and merge sort trees?
    This is what I’ve tried-
    1. Created a merge sort tree M[LOGN][N] to keep a track of sorted values in different levels. Level 0 containing the complete sorted array.
    2. For any query [i,j] got disjoint intervals(at max logN number of them).
    3. Binary search for X for which number of elements < X in all lists = k using fractional cascading.( log(maximumNumber-minimumNumber)*log(N) )

    What will be the complexity of creating a merged list out of these k sorted lists. Will it be k.log(N) ?
    Secondly, the numbers can be upto 10^9 . I am not able to understand how will a binary search on [mininumNumber, maximumNumber] will work in time.

    • anudeep2011

      1) I have no idea about fractional cascading and merge sort trees.

      Merging K sorted lists is not k * log(N) because for 2 lists of length N/2. You will have 2 * log( N ) which is not true.
      Simple upper bound is N * log(N), Proof? Just join those k lists and sort them.

      Yes the numbers are up to 10^9, one method is you can use coordinate-compression.

  • ma5termind

    here is one more problem which can be solved using persistent segment tree.
    Thanx for such a great help

  • could u explain this line “f( u, x) + f( v, x) – f( lca(u, v), x ) – f( parent( lca(u, v) ), x ) “. Why r u subtracting “f( parent( lca(u, v) ), x” ??

    • anudeep2011

      Take some tree image ( Google for it ). Now f(u, x) means root to u.
      Now terms f(u, x) and f(v, x) are additions, so consider rounding each node on the path from root to u and root to v.
      terms f( lca(u, v), x ) and f( parent( lca(u, v) ), x ) are deletions, so consider erasing one rounding on each node on the path from root to lca(u,v) and root to parent( lca(u,v) ). You will notice that you will be left with rounds on path from u to v, which is exactly what you need.

      Try this with different u, v values if needed.

      • yogi

        Hi anudeep

        I tried the above but i feel it should be f( u, x) + f( v, x) – 2 * f( lca(u, v), x ) . Could you please explain this.

        • anudeep2011

          f( u, x) + f( v, x) – 2*f( lca(u, v), x ) – If this is done then the “lca(u, v)” node is not counted at all. It is added twice in initial 2 functions and again removed twice.

          Draw a simple tree. Consider random u, v nodes and check what happens for f(u) + f(v) – 2 * f( lca(u, v) ). Where f(u) means traveling from root to u and putting a dot on the node. -f(u) means traveling from root to u and erasing a dot on the node.

          At the end of your formula there should be exactly one dot on each node from u to v path.

  • Sreenivasan AC

    Nice explanation!