What is an Algorithm? And What are the Examples of Algorithms?

What is an Algorithm?

An algorithm is a set of steps or procedures that are followed in order to solve a problem or accomplish a task. It is a systematic method for solving a problem that is well-defined, and it can be expressed in a finite amount of steps. Algorithms are at the heart of computer science and they are essential for carrying out a wide range of tasks, from simple calculations to complex data analysis.

In order to understand what an algorithm is, firstly it's helpful to understand the concept of a problem. A problem is simply a task that needs to be solved. An algorithm is a method for solving a problem. It is a step-by-step process that takes input, processes it, and produces output. Algorithms are used in a wide range of fields, including computer science, mathematics, and engineering. They are used to perform calculations, process data, and make decisions. In the field of computer science, algorithms are used to perform tasks such as searching, sorting, and optimizing. 

There are several key characteristics of algorithms that make them useful and powerful tools for solving problems:

Precision: An algorithm must be precise and clear, with each step defined in detail. This ensures that the algorithm can be followed by a computer or a person without any confusion. There’s no room for ambiguity so it can’t be an estimation.

Finiteness: An algorithm must have a finite number of steps. This means that it must eventually come to an end, rather than continuing indefinitely.

Input and output: An algorithm must have specified input and output. The input is the data or information that the algorithm uses to solve the problem, and the output is the result of the algorithm's processing.

Generality: An algorithm should be able to solve a wide range of problems, not just a specific problem. This allows algorithms to be used and reused in a variety of contexts.

Examples of Algorithms

There are many different types of algorithms, and they can be used to solve a wide range of problems. Here are a few examples of algorithms and how to use them:

Search algorithms

These algorithms are used to search through a large amount of data in order to find a specific piece of information. One example of a search algorithm is the binary search algorithm, which is used to search through a sorted list of items in order to find a particular element.

Sorting algorithms

Sorting algorithms are used to arrange a list of items in a specific order. The bubble sort algorithm is one of them, which works by repeatedly comparing pairs of elements and swapping them if they are in the wrong order.

Optimization algorithms

Optimizing algorithms help us to find the optimal solution to a problem by maximizing or minimizing a particular function. For example, the gradient descent algorithm is an optimization algorithm, which is used in machine learning to find the optimal parameters for a model.

Data compression algorithms

Data compression algorithms reduce the size of a large amount of data in order to make it more manageable. Huffman coding algorithm is a data compression algorithm, it works by assigning shorter code words to more frequently occurring data elements.

Cryptographic algorithms

These algorithms are used to secure data by encrypting it and making it difficult for unauthorized users to access. One example of a cryptographic algorithm is the RSA algorithm, which is used to secure data transmitted over the internet.

Machine learning algorithms

Machine learning algorithms are used to analyze data and make predictions or decisions based on that data. For example,  the support vector machine (SVM) algorithm is a machine learning algorithm. SVM algorithms are used to classify data points into different categories. They can also train computer systems to recognize patterns and make decisions based on data. Other examples of machine learning algorithms include decision trees and neural networks.

Pathfinding algorithms

Pathfinding algorithms are used to find the shortest or most efficient path between two points. Examples of pathfinding algorithms include Dijkstra's algorithm and A* search.

Compression algorithms

These algorithms allow us to reduce the size of a file or data set by eliminating redundancy or unnecessary information. Huffman coding and LZW (Lempel-Ziv-Welch) compression are some of the compression algorithm examples.

Encryption algorithms

These algorithms help us to secure information by encoding it in a way that can only be decrypted with a specific key. Some examples of encryption algorithms are AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) and RSA (Rivest-Shamir-Adleman).

Importance of Algorithms

Algorithms are an essential tool for solving problems and performing tasks in a variety of fields. They allow us to make sense of large amounts of data and to find solutions to complex problems efficiently.

In the field of computer science, algorithms are particularly important because they help us to perform tasks that would be impossible or impractical to do manually. For example, a search algorithm can quickly search through millions of items in a database to find a specific piece of information, while a sorting algorithm can quickly sort a large list of items into a specific order.

In addition, algorithms are used to:

  • Optimize systems and processes in order to make them more efficient. For example, an optimization algorithm might be used to find the most efficient route for a delivery truck, or to minimize the energy consumption of a power grid.

  • Recommend products or content based on your past purchases or interests, such as when you use a streaming service or online shopping site.

  • Analyze financial data to make investment decisions or predict market trends.

  • Recognize patterns and make decisions in self-driving cars and other automated systems.

Algorithms are also important for advancing scientific and technical knowledge. They are used to analyze data from experiments and simulations and can help researchers.


In summary, an algorithm is a set of steps or procedures that are followed in order to solve a problem or accomplish a task. Algorithms are used in a wide range of fields, including computer science, mathematics, and engineering, and they are essential tools for solving problems and making sense of large amounts of data. They already play a huge role in our lives and without them, problems would be incredibly hard to figure out.

Subscribe to our newsletter
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Try Riders for free!
Access to Demo Classroom
← Back to blog