The above image, describing Strassen's matrix multiplication algorithm, is from the book Introduction to Algorithms by Cormen, Leiserson, Rivest, and Stein. The algorithm multiplies two square matrices of order $n$, where $n$ is a power of $2$, i.e., $n=2,4,8,16,32,\dots$ and so on.

Can this algorithm be modified so that we can multiply two square matrices of order $n$, for all $n$?

  • $\begingroup$ I don't have my copy of CLR to hand, so I can't check: is this one of the exercises later in the chapter? If so, does that give any hints? $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 13:35
  • $\begingroup$ Pad the matrices with zeros. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 13:52
  • $\begingroup$ In the first edition, this was exercise 31.2-2. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 18:57

1 Answer 1


The solution is to pad the matrices with zeroes, using the block matrix identity $$ \begin{bmatrix} A & 0 \\ 0 & 0 \end{bmatrix} \begin{bmatrix} B & 0 \\ 0 & 0 \end{bmatrix} = \begin{bmatrix} AB & 0 \\ 0 & 0 \end{bmatrix} . $$

Here $A,B$ are $n\times n$ matrices, and the big matrices are $N\times N$ for some $N > n$. In other words, we add $N-n$ rows and $N-n$ columns of zeroes.

You can do this in two ways:

  • Pad the original $n \times n$ matrices to $N \times N$ matrices, where $N$ is the closest power of 2. Note that $N < 2n$, so this doesn't affect the asymptotic complexity.

  • Pad the matrices recursively. Whenever a recursive call gets $m \times m$ matrices with $m > 1$ odd, we pad them to $(m+1) \times (m+1)$ matrices by adding a single row and a single column of zeroes. This also doesn't affect the asymptotic complexity.

A third option is to make use of, say, a 3x3 matrix multiplication algorithm if the dimension is odd but divisible by 3. Laderman found such an algorithm which uses 23 multiplications (instead of the trivial 27).

  • $\begingroup$ this would alter the complexity of the algorithm. $\endgroup$
    – Sc00by_d00
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 10:05
  • $\begingroup$ Say for n=27 and n=32 we would have same asymptotic complexity. $\endgroup$
    – Sc00by_d00
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 10:06
  • $\begingroup$ because we would actually be multiplying 32 X 32 matrix padded with zeros instead of 27 X 27 matrix. So can't the algorithm be modified keeping the complexity of the algorithm unaltered ? $\endgroup$
    – Sc00by_d00
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 10:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Sc00by_d00, it doesn't affect the complexity of the algorithm, assuming it's in $P$, because the padding is by a bounded factor. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 11:45
  • $\begingroup$ The asymptotic complexity doesn’t depend on constant factors, which is all you lose here. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 15:04

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