509. Fibonacci Number

Problem Description

The problem is to find the nth number in the Fibonacci sequence. The Fibonacci sequence is a series of numbers where each number is the sum of the two preceding ones. The sequence starts with 0 and 1. Mathematically, it can be defined as:

1F(0) = 0, F(1) = 1
2F(n) = F(n - 1) + F(n - 2), for n > 1.

The task is to write a function that, given a non-negative integer n, returns the nth Fibonacci number.


To solve this problem, we think about the properties of the Fibonacci sequence. Since F(n) depends only on the two previous numbers, F(n - 1) and F(n - 2), we can compute it using an iterative approach. We start with the first two numbers, 0 and 1, and repeat the process of adding the last two numbers to get the next number until we reach the nth term. This removes the need for recursion, which can be inefficient and possibly lead to a stack overflow for large values of n.

The intuition behind the iterative solution is based on the observation that we don't need to retain all the previous numbers computed - just the last two numbers to calculate the next number in the sequence. This leads to a time and space efficient algorithm.

Learn more about Recursion, Memoization, Math and Dynamic Programming patterns.

Solution Approach

The solution implements an iterative approach to calculate Fibonacci numbers. The main algorithm used here doesn't require complex data structures or patterns - it simply relies on variable swapping and updating values in each iteration.

Here's a step-by-step explanation of the code:

  1. We initialize two variables a and b to the first two Fibonacci numbers, 0 and 1, respectively. These two variables will keep track of the last two numbers in the sequence at each step.

  2. We then enter a loop that will iterate n times. On each iteration, we simulate the progression of the sequence.

  3. Inside the loop, we have a single line of code that performs the update:

    1a, b = b, a + b

    This line is a tuple unpacking feature in Python, which allows for the simultaneous update of a and b. Here's the breakdown:

    • b is assigned to a, which moves the sequence one step forward.
    • a + b is the sum of the current last two numbers, producing the next number in the sequence, and it is assigned to b.

This operation is repeated until we have looped n times, by which point a will contain the nth Fibonacci number, and the function returns a.

One important note is that the looping starts from 0 and goes to n-1, thus iterating n times. The reason for this is that we start counting from 0 in the Fibonacci sequence, so after n iterations, we've already achieved the nth term.

There are no recursive calls, which makes this algorithm run in O(n) time complexity, which is the number of iterations equal to n, and O(1) space complexity, because we're only ever storing two values, regardless of the size of n.

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Example Walkthrough

Let's illustrate the solution approach with an example where we want to find the 5th number in the Fibonacci sequence.

  1. We start by initializing two variables a and b with the first two Fibonacci numbers, 0 and 1, respectively. So a = 0 and b = 1.

  2. We need to loop from 0 to n-1, where n is 5 in this example, since we want to find the 5th number in the sequence.

  3. The loop starts, and at each iteration, we will perform the following operation:

    1a, b = b, a + b
  4. Let's see how the values of a and b change with each iteration:

    • Iteration 1: a = 1, b = 1 (0 + 1)
    • Iteration 2: a = 1, b = 2 (1 + 1)
    • Iteration 3: a = 2, b = 3 (1 + 2)
    • Iteration 4: a = 3, b = 5 (2 + 3)

    After 4 iterations (which is n-1 for n=5), we can stop since a now holds the value of the 5th Fibonacci number.

  5. The function will then return a, which is 3. So, the 5th number in the Fibonacci sequence is 3.

Now implementing this approach with actual Python code would look like this:

1def fibonacci(n):
2    a, b = 0, 1
3    for _ in range(n):
4        a, b = b, a + b
5    return a
7# Example usage:
8print(fibonacci(5))  # Output will be 3

This walkthrough demonstrates how the algorithm works with a small example and assures us that the result of fibonacci(5) is indeed the 5th number in the Fibonacci sequence according to our zero-indexing in the sequence definition.

Solution Implementation

1class Solution:
2    def fib(self, N: int) -> int:
3        # Initialize the first two Fibonacci numbers
4        previous, current = 0, 1
6        # Iterate N times to calculate the N-th Fibonacci number
7        for _ in range(N):
8            # Update the previous and current values to move one step forward in the Fibonacci sequence
9            previous, current = current, previous + current
11        # After N iterations, previous holds the value of the N-th Fibonacci number
12        return previous
1class Solution {
2    public int fib(int n) {
3        // Initializing the first two numbers of the Fibonacci sequence.
4        int previousNumber = 0; // Previously known as 'a'.
5        int currentNumber = 1;  // Previously known as 'b'.
7        // Looping to calculate Fibonacci sequence until the nth number.
8        while (n-- > 0) {
9            // Calculate the next number in the Fibonacci sequence.
10            int nextNumber = previousNumber + currentNumber;
12            // Update the previous number to be the current number.
13            previousNumber = currentNumber;
15            // Update the current number to be the next number.
16            currentNumber = nextNumber;
17        }
19        // After completing the loop, 'previousNumber' holds the nth Fibonacci number.
20        return previousNumber;
21    }
1class Solution {
3    int fib(int n) {
4        // Initialize the first two fibonacci numbers
5        int previous = 0, current = 1;
7        // Loop to calculate the nth fibonacci number
8        while (n--) {
9            // Calculate the next fibonacci number
10            int next = previous + current;
12            // Update the previous and current values for the next iteration
13            previous = current;
14            current = next;
15        }
17        // Return the nth fibonacci number which is now stored in 'previous'
18        return previous;
19    }
1// Function to calculate the nth Fibonacci number
2function fib(n: number): number {
3    // Initialize the first two Fibonacci numbers
4    let currentFib = 0;    // The first Fibonacci number, F(0)
5    let nextFib = 1;       // The second Fibonacci number, F(1)
7    // Iterate until the nth number
8    for (let i = 0; i < n; i++) {
9        // Update the current and next numbers using tuple assignment
10        // currentFib becomes the nextFib, and nextFib becomes the sum of currentFib and nextFib
11        [currentFib, nextFib] = [nextFib, currentFib + nextFib];
12    }
14    // Return the nth Fibonacci number
15    return currentFib;

Time and Space Complexity

Time Complexity

The provided code consists of a single loop that iterates n times, where n is the input number to calculate the Fibonacci sequence. In each iteration of the loop, a constant number of operations are performed, specifically the assignments a, b = b, a + b. Therefore, this loop runs in linear time with respect to the input n. This gives us a time complexity of O(n).

Space Complexity

The space complexity of the code is constant, as it only uses a fixed number of variables (a and b) regardless of the input size. This means no additional space is used that scales with the input size n, leading to a space complexity of O(1).

Learn more about how to find time and space complexity quickly using problem constraints.

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