Expand a random range from 1–5 to 1–7

algorithmpuzzlerandom

Given a function which produces a random integer in the range 1 to 5, write a function which produces a random integer in the range 1 to 7.

  1. What is a simple solution?
  2. What is an effective solution to reduce memory usage or run on a slower CPU?

Best Solution

This is equivalent to Adam Rosenfield's solution, but may be a bit more clear for some readers. It assumes rand5() is a function that returns a statistically random integer in the range 1 through 5 inclusive.

int rand7()
{
    int vals[5][5] = {
        { 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 },
        { 6, 7, 1, 2, 3 },
        { 4, 5, 6, 7, 1 },
        { 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 },
        { 7, 0, 0, 0, 0 }
    };

    int result = 0;
    while (result == 0)
    {
        int i = rand5();
        int j = rand5();
        result = vals[i-1][j-1];
    }
    return result;
}

How does it work? Think of it like this: imagine printing out this double-dimension array on paper, tacking it up to a dart board and randomly throwing darts at it. If you hit a non-zero value, it's a statistically random value between 1 and 7, since there are an equal number of non-zero values to choose from. If you hit a zero, just keep throwing the dart until you hit a non-zero. That's what this code is doing: the i and j indexes randomly select a location on the dart board, and if we don't get a good result, we keep throwing darts.

Like Adam said, this can run forever in the worst case, but statistically the worst case never happens. :)