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Ahmad Ra'fat
Ahmad Ra'fat

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30-Day LeetCoding Challenge: Move Zeroes

the problem


When I read the problem for the first time it came to my mind direct solution that I want to go through the array whenever I encounter zero I just remove it and when I am done I add them again.

But the removal procedure on a list in python will cost O(n), and we will do this inside loop that goes through our nums array, so totally we will reach to O(n2) for the whole procedure.

zeros = 0
for i in range(len(nums)): # O(n)
  del nums[i] # O(n)
  zeroes += 1
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Then I thought okay what about using the python count() function to count the 0's and use another array to contain all my non-zeroes items in it. Then add zeroes amount of 0 to the end of the new array and later on override our nums array by this new array values because it requires not returning anything.

If you think a little bit you can see this approach will work better than the above as it will take only O(n), but we used an extra space which is O(n) as we copied everything to a new defined array.
You can see full code for this moveZeroes_2().

Then I thought no I want time O(n) with space O(1) can we do that!
Yes, of course, we can how by using two pointers the slow one will call it last_non_zero this will hold my last non zero number, and the fast pointer will call it i and this will hold my current element in the nums array.

What we will do will just move along the array whenever we encounter non zero number will move it to the place where last_non_zero pointer is located then increase this pointer by 1, and when we are done make another loop starting from where last_non_zero is to the end of the array and just keep adding zeros.

  • Example:

nums = [0,1,0,3,12]

  1. We will start with last_non_zero = 0, i = 0
  2. check does nums[i] != 0, no it is not (nums[i] = nums[0] = 0)
  3. increase the i++ and check again, yes nums[1] != 0 as it is 1 so move it to the nums[last_non_zero] = nums[i] and then increase last_non_zero ++

    Now our array looks like this nums = [1,1,0,3,12]

  4. keep repeating this procedure until the end our array will look like this nums = [1,3,12,3,12] and last_non_zero = 3.

  5. Now we start from last_non_zero to the end and just add 0 as we go so our final result will be nums = [1,3,12,0,0]

  • Pseudocode:
1. define `last_non_zero = 0`, `n = len(nums)`
2. loop from i = 0 to n:
3.    if nums[i] != 0:
4.      nums[i] = nums[last_non_zero]
5.      last_non_zero += 1
6. loop from j = last_non_zero to n:
7.    nums[j] = 0
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  • Complexity:

  • Time complexity is straight forward O(n)

  • Space complexity we didn't use any extra space so it is O(1)

Solution: moveZeroes()

There is an optimal solution for this problem tries to find it out yourself :).

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