Dynamic Programming : Matrix chain multiplication

Matrix chain multiplication using dynamic programming

What is matrix multiplication? To read on that please refer to Wiki.
However, today’s problem is not about actually multiplying matrices, but to find out an order in which we multiply matrices so that number of multiplication done are minimum.

There are two basic properties of a matrix : number of rows and number of columns in matrix. Row and columns are called as dimensions of matrix.
Given N matrices of (MxN dimensions). Find an order in which these matrices are multiplied, so that total number of scalar multiplications are least. and dimensions of each matrix given in an array P where P[i-1] and P[i] denote rows and column respectively of ith matrix.

Matrix chain multiplication is a typical problem which is used to explain dynamic programming. Approach learnt here can be easily applied to many other problems.

Before going further, lets understand some points about matrix multiplication

1. Matrix multiplication is associative i.e.  A* (B*C) = (A*B) *C
2. It is not commutative i.e  A * (B*C) not equal to A * (C * B)
3. To multiply two matrices, they should be compatible i.e. no of columns in first matrix should be equal to number of rows of second matrix.
No of columns of first matrix = No. of rows of second matrix

Let’s get back to problem at hand.  Look at this problem as this : Figure out a way to put parenthesis around matrices so that total number of multiplication are least.

Brute force way is to find out every possible combination of parenthesis and check which one is minimum.
This is approach can be implemented in recursive way, once we put a parenthesis, problem is reduced putting parenthesis around N-1 matrices to be multiplied. However, code will be exponential in time and hence of no use for every large input.

Let’s see if dynamic programming fits in. We can see that cost of multiplying matrices Ai to Aj  is cost of

Cost (Ai, Aj) = Cost(Ai,Ak) + Cost(Ak+1,Aj )+(P[i-1] * P[k] * P[j])

Idea is to find out K such that cost(Ai, Aj) becomes minimum. If M[i,j] represents the cost to multiply matrix i to matrix j, then,

M[i,j]  = M[i,k] + M[K+1,j] + ((P[i-1] * P[k] * P[j])

When calculating M[i,j]; M[i,k] and M[k+1,j] should be already available. Also, M[i,i] = 0 as cost of multiplying a single matrix will be 0.

Looking at the requirement to calculate M[i,j], it depends on length of chain. Length of chain from matrix i to matrix j would be i+j-1. We start with length L = 2 and go on to solve the table entry for length N. M[1, N] will give us the final cost.

We will start with L =2, chain we are considering is of length of 2 as j =  i + L -1  = 1 +2 -1 =2.  We will start with i =1 and loop runs to i = N-L +1 and considering two matrices at time.

Length being considered will vary for L =2 to L = N. Based on L, j will also change and we will be finding minimum cost(i,j) for each i and j. To find minimum cost(i,j), we need to find a K such that expression

Cost (Ai, Aj) = Cost(Ai,Ak) + Cost(Ak+1,Aj )+(P[i-1] * P[k] * P[j])

becomes minimum. This is top down filling of table where M [1, 2] will be filled first and then going up to fill till M [1,N].

Implementation for multiplication of matrix problem


#define MAX_INT 10000000

int matrixMultiplication(int p[], int N){

  int L,i, j, temp;

  int M[N][N];

  for(i=0; i<N; i++){
  	for(j=0; j<N; j++){
       M[i][j] = 0;

  for(L=2; L<N; L++){
    /* For every position i, we check every chain of len L */
    for(i=1; i<N-L+1; i++){
        j = i+L-1;
        M[i][j] = MAX_INT;
        /* For matrix i to j, check every split K */
            for(int k=i; k<j; k++){
                temp = M[i][k] + M[k+1][j] + p[i-1] * p[k] * p[j];
               /* Check if the current count is less than minimum */
                if(temp < M[i][j]){
                    M[i][j] = temp;                 
    for(i=1; i<N; i++){
    	for(int k=1; k<N; k++){
    		printf("%d ", M[i][k]);
 return M[1][N-1];
/* Driver program to run above code */
int main(){

    int p [] ={10, 20, 30, 40, 30};
    int n = sizeof(p)/sizeof(p[0]);
    printf("%d\n", matrixMultiplication(p,n));
    return 0;

Let’s run through an example and understand how does this code work?

P = {10, 20,30,40,30}, 
dimensions of matrix [1] = 10X20, 
dimensions of matrix [2] = 20X30, 
dimensions of matrix [3] = 30X40,
dimensions of matrix [4] = 40X30

Function will be called with array P and size which is 5.
Table of N size is declared. M[6][6] because we will need to store M[1][4].

Diagonal of the table is set to zero, as cost of multiplication of single matrix is 0.

M[0][0] = M[1][1] =M[2][2]=M[3][3]=M[4][4]= M[5][5]=M[6][6] =0

Start with for loop with L =2. Inner for loop will run from i =1  to N-L+1 = 5-2+1 =4, j will be i +L -1. which is 2.
Inner most loop runs with K=1 (i) till k = 2 (j). M[1,2] is INT_MAX.

temp = M[1,1] + M[2,2] + P[0] *P[1]*P[2] = 6000.

Since it is less than INT_MAX M[1,2] = 6000.
Similarly, for i =2, j = 2 + 2 -1 =3. Above process is followed and M[2,3] = 24000 and so on.

M[3,4] = P[2] * P[3] * P[4] = 36000.

Coming to L =3. i =1, j = 4-1 =3. K =1 to K <3.
For K =1,

temp =  M[1,1] + M[2,3] + P[0] * [1] * P[3] = 24000 +8000 = 32000

For K=2,

temp = M[1,2] + M[3,3] + P[0]*[2]*P[3] = 6000 + 12000 = 18000

Hence M[1,3] = min(32000, and 18000) = 18000 with i = 1.

With i =2. j =2+3-1 =4. K =2 to K <4
For K =2,

temp = M[2,2] + M[3,4] + P[1] * P[2]*P[4] =  36000 + 18000 = 54000.

For K =3,

temp = M[2,3] + M[4,4] + P[1] * P[3]*P[4] =  32000 + 24000 =  66000.

Hence M[1,3] remains 18000.
Same process is followed and the entries are filled. Finally, matrix will look like this :

0 6000 18000 30000 
0 0 24000 48000 
0 0 0 36000 
0 0 0 0

M[1,N-1] will be solution to our problem.

Time complexity of matrix chain multiplication using dynamic programming is O(n2). Also space complexity is O(n2).

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