Given a list $L$ of positive integers, assuming you can only modify the list by "splitting" its numbers a finite number $n$ of times. Write an algorithm which minimize the maximum of the last generated list.

By "splitting" a number $x$ I mean deleting $x$ from $L$ and adding to $L$ two positive numbers $\alpha,\beta$ verifying $\alpha+\beta=x$. We can only do this $n$ times.

My try was taking the two greatest elements of $L$, $\alpha$ (the maximum) and $\beta$ (the other), then I split $\alpha$ into $c=\min(\alpha/\beta+1,n+1)$ equal parts (the last part will be $\frac{\alpha}{(\alpha/\beta+1)}+\alpha\text{mod}(\alpha/\beta+1)$). So I spend $c$ of the hability.

Then I repeat the process until I run out of the hability or $\beta=1$, so then y take $c=\min(\alpha/\beta+1,n+1)-1$.

I know my try is not correct, as the list $(10, 4, 9)$ for $n=4$ is a counterexample. Any idea?

I'm not looking for efficiency details (it can be achieved working with heaps), only for correctness.

  • $\begingroup$ By "splitting" a number $\alpha$ I mean deleting $\alpha$ from $L$ and adding to $L$ two positive numbers $\alpha,\beta$ verifying $\alpha+\beta=x$. I assume you meant splitting a number $x$ by deleting $x$? $\endgroup$
    – orlp
    Oct 29, 2017 at 21:17
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, you're right $\endgroup$ Oct 29, 2017 at 21:18

1 Answer 1


If we use $k$ splits on a single element $x$ of the list, the lowest value we can reach is $\dfrac{x}{k+1}$. In turn, we need $\displaystyle k = \left \lceil\frac{x}{v}\right\rceil - 1$ splits for $x$ to reach a certain value $v$.

Elements do not affect each other, after all to reach some maximum $v$ after splitting each element must reach it individually.

So you simply want to find the smallest possible $v$ such that $$\sum_{x \in L}\left\lceil\frac{x}{v}\right\rceil \leq n + |L|$$

You can find $v$ to arbitrary precision by using a binary search using the above check, starting with range $[0, \max L]$. Finding an exact answer is somewhat trickier though.


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