LeetCode is a popular platform for practicing coding problems, improving algorithmic thinking, and preparing for technical interviews. Blind 75 is a curated list of 75 common LeetCode problems often encountered during interviews. One such problem on this list is the “Number of Islands” problem. In this article, we’ll discuss how to approach and solve the “Number of Islands” problem, providing a step-by-step guide to help you master this problem and improve your problem-solving skills.
Understanding the Number of Islands Problem
The “Number of Islands” problem is a classic graph theory problem that involves determining the number of connected groups of ‘1’s in a 2D grid, where ‘1’ represents land and ‘0’ represents water. Two cells are considered connected if they are adjacent horizontally or vertically.
To solve this problem, we’ll use Depth-First Search (DFS) or Breadth-First Search (BFS), two fundamental graph traversal algorithms. We’ll focus on the DFS approach in this guide.
Step-by-Step Approach to Solving the Number of Islands Problem
Understand the Problem and Constraints: Begin by carefully reading the problem statement and understanding the given constraints, such as the grid size and the characters used to represent land and water.
Identify the Problem Type: Recognize that this problem falls under the category of graph traversal, where we need to traverse a 2D grid and count the connected components.
Implement Depth-First Search (DFS): DFS is a suitable algorithm for traversing and counting connected components in a graph. For each cell, if it’s land (‘1’), we’ll initiate a DFS traversal to mark all connected land cells as visited.
Define a DFS Helper Function: Implement a DFS helper function to recursively traverse the grid. The DFS function should mark visited cells and traverse neighboring cells recursively.
Iterate Through the Grid: Iterate through each cell in the grid. If a cell is unvisited and represents land (‘1’), initiate a DFS traversal to mark the connected land cells.
Count the Islands: Count the number of times DFS is initiated, as each initiation represents a new island or connected component.
Return the Count: Return the count of islands as the result.
Handle Edge Cases: Make sure to handle edge cases, such as empty grids, grids without any islands, or grids with only water.
The “Number of Islands” problem is an important algorithmic challenge that tests your understanding of graph traversal algorithms. By following a systematic approach and implementing DFS to traverse the 2D grid, you can efficiently solve this problem. Understanding the problem, identifying the appropriate algorithm, and carefully implementing the solution will help you tackle this problem confidently, along with other graph-related challenges. Remember to practice regularly on platforms like LeetCode to enhance your problem-solving skills and prepare effectively for technical interviews. Happy coding!