Algorithm Analysis & Time Complexity Simplified

5 min readJul 20, 2017

(Big-O, Big Theta, Big Omega)

Algorithm Growth

An algorithm is any well defined procedure that takes some value or set of values as input and produces some value or set of values as output. Source: Thomas H. Cormen, Chales E. Leiserson (2009), Introduction to Algorithms 3rd edition. You can think of an algorithm like a recipe used to cook food, it’s just a set of instructions. In the case of making a cake using a recipe your input maybe eggs, sugar, flower etc. and your output is a cake !

Algorithm analysis is an important part of a broader computational complexity theory, which provides theoretical estimates for the resources (space and time)needed by any algorithm which solves a given computational problem.

In computer science, the time complexity of an algorithm gives the amount of time that it takes for an algorithm or program complete its execution, and is usually expressed by Big-O (O)notation. Big-O notation usually excludes any coefficients for example 4n²+1 in Big-O notation is O( n² ). The time complexity can also be expressed by Big Omega (Ω) and Big Theta (Θ).

What is Big-O (O), Big Omega (Ω) and Big Theta (Θ) ?

Prove Big-O (O) Worst Case

Big-O, which is usually written as O, is an Asymptotic Notation for the worst case, which is also the ceiling of growth for a given function. It provides us with what is called an asymptotic upper bound for the growth rate of runtime of an algorithm.

Suppose f(n) is your algorithm runtime, and g(n) is an arbitrary time complexity you are trying to relate to your algorithm. f(n) is O(g(n)), if for some positive constants c and k, f(n) <= c * g(n) whenever n > k.

Let’s take a look at an example:
In the following video we want to show that or prove f(n) is Big O of g(n).
f(n) = n² + 2n + 1
g(n) = n²

So we want to show/prove that n² + 2n + 1 is O(n²)