Some time ago I was interviewed to one of the Java-based projects and I was asked to solve this pretty interesting puzzle. The question was "how to count frequency of a digit in a factorial of number, let’s say 1000". I tried to solve it using Java 8 Stream API, but I guess you see how bad decision it was. Problems like that can be easily solved with pure functional languages and today we are going to find out how to solve this puzzle with Haskell.

Let’s start with starting GHCI repl:

~ % ghci
GHCi, version 8.0.2: http://www.haskell.org/ghc/  :? for help
Prelude>

We can start with calculating factorial of number 1000. The easiest way to do it with Haskell is to use product function and pass a list of 1000 numbers starting from 1 to 1000. We can create such list using range [1..1000]

Prelude> product [1..1000]
402387260077093773543702433923003985719374864210714632543799910429938512398629020592044208486969404800479988610197196058631666872994808558901323829669944590997424504087073759918823627727188732519779505950995276120874975462497043601418278094646496291056393887437886487337119181045825783647849977012476632889835955735432513185323958463075557409114262417474349347553428646576611667797396668820291207379143853719588249808126867838374559731746136085379534524221586593201928090878297308431392844403281231558611036976801357304216168747609675871348312025478589320767169132448426236131412508780208000261683151027341827977704784635868170164365024153691398281264810213092761244896359928705114964975419909342221566832572080821333186116811553615836546984046708975602900950537616475847728421889679646244945160765353408198901385442487984959953319101723355556602139450399736280750137837615307127761926849034352625200015888535147331611702103968175921510907788019393178114194545257223865541461062892187960223838971476088506276862967146674697562911234082439208160153780889893964518263243671616762179168909779911903754031274622289988005195444414282012187361745992642956581746628302955570299024324153181617210465832036786906117260158783520751516284225540265170483304226143974286933061690897968482590125458327168226458066526769958652682272807075781391858178889652208164348344825993266043367660176999612831860788386150279465955131156552036093988180612138558600301435694527224206344631797460594682573103790084024432438465657245014402821885252470935190620929023136493273497565513958720559654228749774011413346962715422845862377387538230483865688976461927383814900140767310446640259899490222221765904339901886018566526485061799702356193897017860040811889729918311021171229845901641921068884387121855646124960798722908519296819372388642614839657382291123125024186649353143970137428531926649875337218940694281434118520158014123344828015051399694290153483077644569099073152433278288269864602789864321139083506217095002597389863554277196742822248757586765752344220207573630569498825087968928162753848863396909959826280956121450994871701244516461260379029309120889086942028510640182154399457156805941872748998094254742173582401063677404595741785160829230135358081840096996372524230560855903700624271243416909004153690105933983835777939410970027753472000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

As you can see factorial of number 1000 is a pretty huge number (2568 digits in total).

The next step is to convert this number to a list of characters, because we are going to use character comparison. Haskell’s types system allow us to treat strings as a list of characters, e.g. following expression evaluates to true:

Prelude> "abc" == ['a','b','c']
True

Thanks to this we can use show function to convert the number to a list of characters:

Prelude> show $ product [1..1000]
"402387260077093773543702433923003985719374864210714632543799910429938512398629020592044208486969404800479988610197196058631666872994808558901323829669944590997424504087073759918823627727188732519779505950995276120874975462497043601418278094646496291056393887437886487337119181045825783647849977012476632889835955735432513185323958463075557409114262417474349347553428646576611667797396668820291207379143853719588249808126867838374559731746136085379534524221586593201928090878297308431392844403281231558611036976801357304216168747609675871348312025478589320767169132448426236131412508780208000261683151027341827977704784635868170164365024153691398281264810213092761244896359928705114964975419909342221566832572080821333186116811553615836546984046708975602900950537616475847728421889679646244945160765353408198901385442487984959953319101723355556602139450399736280750137837615307127761926849034352625200015888535147331611702103968175921510907788019393178114194545257223865541461062892187960223838971476088506276862967146674697562911234082439208160153780889893964518263243671616762179168909779911903754031274622289988005195444414282012187361745992642956581746628302955570299024324153181617210465832036786906117260158783520751516284225540265170483304226143974286933061690897968482590125458327168226458066526769958652682272807075781391858178889652208164348344825993266043367660176999612831860788386150279465955131156552036093988180612138558600301435694527224206344631797460594682573103790084024432438465657245014402821885252470935190620929023136493273497565513958720559654228749774011413346962715422845862377387538230483865688976461927383814900140767310446640259899490222221765904339901886018566526485061799702356193897017860040811889729918311021171229845901641921068884387121855646124960798722908519296819372388642614839657382291123125024186649353143970137428531926649875337218940694281434118520158014123344828015051399694290153483077644569099073152433278288269864602789864321139083506217095002597389863554277196742822248757586765752344220207573630569498825087968928162753848863396909959826280956121450994871701244516461260379029309120889086942028510640182154399457156805941872748998094254742173582401063677404595741785160829230135358081840096996372524230560855903700624271243416909004153690105933983835777939410970027753472000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000"

The expression shown in REPL is an equivalent of

Prelude> show (product [1..1000])

$ operator is used to avoid using parentheses and it simply means that the expression on the left side will use the result of an expression on the right side of $ operator.

Now we have a list of 2568 characters. If we want to calculate a frequency of character 7 we can apply following algorithm:

  • replace each character 7 with a number 1

  • replace all remaining characters with a number 0

  • sum all numbers from the new list

This algorithm can be implemented using popular map - this function takes a list of elements and creates a new list by applying a function to each element from the input list. For example, incrementing by 1 each number of list [1,2,3] can be expressed with following expression:

Prelude> map (\x -> x + 1) [1,2,3]
[2,3,4]

where (\x → x + 1) is an anonymous function with one parameter that increments a number by 1. Haskell allows us to simplify such functions and in this case we can reduce this function to just (+1):

Prelude> map (+1) [1,2,3]
[2,3,4]

So what is the function we can apply to our initial list? Let’s take a look at following example:

Prelude> map (\x -> if x == '7' then 1 else 0) $ show $ product [1..1000]
[0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,1,1,0,0,0,1,1,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,1,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,1,0,1,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,1,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,1,1,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,1,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,1,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,1,1,1,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,1,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,1,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,1,0,1,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,1,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,1,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,1,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,1,0,0,0,1,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,1,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,1,1,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0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As you can see in our case simple function like (\x → if x == '7' then 1 else 0) did the trick. In the last step we can take advantage of Haskell’s sum function that sums all numbers from the input list:

Prelude> sum $ map (\x -> if x == '7' then 1 else 0) $ show $ product [1..1000]
217

And this is it - digit 7 occurs 217 times in factorial of 1000

Using foldl

In this example we have used composition of two functions - sum and map. We could simplify it to just a single function - foldl (fold left):

Prelude> :t foldl
foldl :: Foldable t => (b -> a -> b) -> b -> t a -> b

Prelude> foldl (\freq x -> if x == '7' then freq + 1 else freq) 0 $ show $ product [1..1000]
217

foldl takes 3 arguments:

  • a two-argument function that is applied to each element of the input list

  • the initial value

  • a list of elements

In our case we start with initial value 0 and this two-argument function uses parameter names freq and x where freq represents a value returned by this function in the previous iteration (it uses initial value for the first iteration) and x represents the current value from list we are iterating over. The algorithm is simple - if the current character is 7 we return freq incremented by 1, otherwise we return unchanged freq.

Find the digit with least frequency

Let’s extend this example and let’s try to find a digit that occurred the least amount of times. We can start with calculating frequencies for all digits. In our previous example we have "hardcode" comparison with character 7. What if we parameterize it and apply these composed functions to each character starting from 0 to 9? We can take

sum $ map (\x -> if x == '7' then 1 else 0) $ show $ product [1..1000]

and use it as a body for an anonymous function like:

(\y -> sum $ map (\x -> if x == y then 1 else 0) $ show $ product [1..1000])

I guess you already see the difference. Next, we can apply this function to a list created as a range of characters from 0 to 9:

Prelude> map (\y -> sum $ map (\x -> if x == y then 1 else 0) $ show $ product [1..1000]) ['0'..'9']
[472,239,248,216,229,213,231,217,257,246]

Voila! Now we have a list of frequencies. And we are almost over. We can use minimum function that returns a minimum value from given list:

Prelude> minimum $ map (\y -> sum $ map (\x -> if x == y then 1 else 0) $ show $ product [1..1000]) ['0'..'9']
213

That’s cool, but how we can determine which digit it is? The good news is that minimum function works fine with list of pairs and in this case it takes the first element of pair into account when comparing value with others. In our case we can simply pair a frequency with a digit, like (4, '9') - this pair says, that character 9 occurred 4 times in the number. Let’s see what the final example would look like:

Prelude> map (\y -> (sum $ map (\x -> if x == y then 1 else 0) $ show $ product [1..1000], y)) ['0'..'9']
[(472,'0'),(239,'1'),(248,'2'),(216,'3'),(229,'4'),(213,'5'),(231,'6'),(217,'7'),(257,'8'),(246,'9')]

And if we apply minimum function, we get:

Prelude> minimum $ map (\y -> (sum $ map (\x -> if x == y then 1 else 0) $ show $ product [1..1000], y)) ['0'..'9']
(213,'5')

And the answer is that digit 5 occurs the least amount of times (213 times) in the factorial of 1000.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed today’s post and you have learned something interesting. Don’t hesitate to suggest alternative solutions to this puzzle - comment section is all yours. See you next time!

Szymon Stepniak

Groovista, Upwork's Top Rated freelancer, Toruń Java User Group founder, open source contributor, Stack Overflow addict, bedroom guitar player. I walk through e.printStackTrace() so you don't have to.