# Number of ways of making change in Big O notation

I have the following algorithm in ML:

fun change(till,0,chg,chgs) = chg::chgs
|   change([],amt,chg,chgs) = chgs
|   change(c::till,amt,chg,chgs) = if amt<0 then chgs else change(c::till, amt-c,c::chg, change(till,amt,chg,chgs));


The algorithm takes a list of currency denominations as till and returns all the combinations of denominations which produce the amount amt specified.

And I am trying to show that the number of ways for making change for some value n regardless of order with two change values is O(n). And then trying to figure out what it is for more change values.

It's clear that for one change value it is O(1) as there is only one possible way to make change but I'm not sure how to progress from there.

Any help would be much appreciated.

• You should check out our reference questions. Also, please add some idea about the algorithm; raw source code is offtopic here.
– Raphael
Oct 20, 2015 at 11:46
• What do you mean by "regardless of order"? If it means that giving you coins 1,1,2,2 is different from 1,2,1,2, then there are exponentially many ways, and I can't think of any other reasonable meaning of "regardless of order". Oct 20, 2015 at 11:52
• @DavidRicherby That is the terminology used when the question was posed to me, given it was an aside I have not paid much attention to it as part of the general problem. Oct 20, 2015 at 11:57
• @Raphael Thanks, I am taking a look and have updated the question with a description of the algorithm. I can remove the source if wanted also. Oct 20, 2015 at 11:57
• @DavidRicherby Exactly the opposite interpretation is intended. Oct 20, 2015 at 18:02

Suppose that the two denominations are $a$ and $b$. Every solution to the coin-changing problem is a solution to the equation $\alpha a + \beta b = n$ in non-negative integers $\alpha,\beta$. For every possible value of $\alpha$ there is at most one solution. Since $0 \leq \alpha \leq n/a$, we conclude that there are at most $n/a + 1 = O(n)$ solutions.
• Thank you. Just wondering where the $+ 1$ came from in the conclusion? And also how would this apply to when there are more denominations? Oct 20, 2015 at 13:20
• If $n/a$ is an integer then there are exactly $1+n/a$ integers in the range $[0,n/a]$. When there are $c$ denominations, the same argument gives an upper bound of $O(n^{c-1})$. Oct 20, 2015 at 13:22
• So far I've got that $\alpha a + \beta b + \gamma c = n$ and for every $\alpha$ there are at most $n/b + 1$ values. The issue is the next step — a hint would be appreciated. Oct 20, 2015 at 17:55