algorithm ăl´gərĭᵺ˝əm [key] or algorism –rĭz˝əm [key] [for Al-Khowarizmi ], a clearly defined procedure for obtaining the solution to a general type of problem, often numerical. Much of ordinary arithmetic as traditionally taught consists of algorithms involving the fundamental operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. An example of an algorithm is the common procedure for division, e.g., the division of 1,347 by 8, in which the remainders of partial divisions are carried to the next digit or digits; in this case the remainder of 5 in the division of 13 by 8 is placed in front of the 4, and 8 is then divided into 54. The software that instructs modern computers embodies algorithms, often of great sophistication.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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