Binary Tree Vertical Order Traversal
The problem is about traversing a binary tree in a specific order called “vertical order”. For vertical order traversal, we can use a BreadthFirst Search (BFS) approach along with a hashtable to store the node values corresponding to their column indices.
Python solution:


This solution uses a breadthfirst search, which means it traverses the tree level by level. In this traversal, for each node, it adds the node to a column table that groups nodes by the column they belong to in the vertical traversal. The key in the column table is the column index and the value is a list of node values.
This solution ensures that nodes in the same row and column are visited from left to right because breadthfirst search visits all nodes at a level from left to right.
The min_column
and max_column
variables are used to keep track of the range of column indices.
Finally, the function returns a list of node values for each column in the order of their column index.
Identifying Problem Isomorphism
“Binary Tree Vertical Order Traversal” can be approximately mapped to “Vertical Order Traversal of a Binary Tree”.
In both problems, you are asked to return the vertical order traversal of a binary tree’s nodes’ values. The vertical order traversal is defined as grouping all nodes that share the same vertical line together. The only difference between these two problems is the order in which nodes on the same line and depth are processed.
In “Binary Tree Vertical Order Traversal”, nodes are processed based on their horizontal distance from the root node (left to right), then by depth (top to bottom).
In “Vertical Order Traversal of a Binary Tree”, nodes on the same vertical line and depth are ordered from left to right according to their appearance in the input.
Both require similar data structures and algorithms to solve, namely breadthfirst search (BFS) with a queue to process nodes by depth, and a hash map to group nodes by their horizontal distance from the root. The difference lies in the way you handle nodes on the same line and depth, hence the mapping is only approximate.
“Vertical Order Traversal of a Binary Tree” is more challenging due to the additional requirement to order nodes on the same line and depth according to their appearance in the input.
10 Prerequisite LeetCode Problems
The Binary Tree Vertical Order Traversal problem involves understanding binary trees, breadthfirst search (BFS), and the concept of sorting. Here are 10 simpler problems as preparation for solving it:
LeetCode 102: Binary Tree Level Order Traversal: This problem is a good starting point to understand the basic concept of level order traversal, which is a type of BFS.
LeetCode 107: Binary Tree Level Order Traversal II: A variation of the previous problem, this one helps you understand how to manipulate the results of a level order traversal.
LeetCode 103: Binary Tree Zigzag Level Order Traversal: This problem introduces a twist to the level order traversal, which can help you prepare for more complex tree traversal problems.
LeetCode 104: Maximum Depth of Binary Tree: This problem can help you become more comfortable with traversing a binary tree and understanding its structure.
LeetCode 105: Construct Binary Tree from Preorder and Inorder Traversal: This problem involves more complex manipulations of binary trees and can help you understand how they are constructed.
LeetCode 108: Convert Sorted Array to Binary Search Tree: This problem also involves constructing a binary tree, this time from a sorted array, and can help you understand the properties of binary search trees.
LeetCode 112: Path Sum: This problem requires understanding of both tree traversal and the concept of a path in a binary tree.
LeetCode 116: Populating Next Right Pointers in Each Node: This problem involves manipulating the links in a binary tree, which requires a good understanding of the tree’s structure.
LeetCode 144: Binary Tree Preorder Traversal: This is a fundamental binary tree problem that helps you understand the preorder traversal.
LeetCode 226: Invert Binary Tree: This problem involves a simple manipulation of a binary tree and can help you get a feel for working with the structure of the tree.
These cover binary tree traversal and manipulation, which you can apply to the Binary Tree Vertical Order Traversal problem.
Clarification Questions
What are the clarification questions we can ask about this problem?
Problem Analysis and Key Insights
What are the key insights from analyzing the problem statement?
Problem Boundary
What is the scope of this problem?
How to establish the boundary of this problem?
Problem Classification
Problem Statement:
Given the root of a binary tree, return the vertical order traversal of its nodes’ values. (i.e., from top to bottom, column by column).
If two nodes are in the same row and column, the order should be from left to right.
Example 1:
Input: root = [3,9,20,null,null,15,7] Output: [[9],[3,15],[20],[7]]
Example 2:
Input: root = [3,9,8,4,0,1,7] Output: [[4],[9],[3,0,1],[8],[7]]
Example 3:
Input: root = [3,9,8,4,0,1,7,null,null,null,2,5] Output: [[4],[9,5],[3,0,1],[8,2],[7]]
Constraints:
The number of nodes in the tree is in the range [0, 100]. 100 <= Node.val <= 100
Analyze the provided problem statement. Categorize it based on its domain, ignoring ‘How’ it might be solved. Identify and list out the ‘What’ components. Based on these, further classify the problem. Explain your categorizations.
Distilling the Problem to Its Core Elements
Can you identify the fundamental concept or principle this problem is based upon? Please explain. What is the simplest way you would describe this problem to someone unfamiliar with the subject? What is the core problem we are trying to solve? Can we simplify the problem statement? Can you break down the problem into its key components? What is the minimal set of operations we need to perform to solve this problem?
Visual Model of the Problem
How to visualize the problem statement for this problem?
Problem Restatement
Could you start by paraphrasing the problem statement in your own words? Try to distill the problem into its essential elements and make sure to clarify the requirements and constraints. This exercise should aid in understanding the problem better and aligning our thought process before jumping into solving it.
Abstract Representation of the Problem
Could you help me formulate an abstract representation of this problem?
Given this problem, how can we describe it in an abstract way that emphasizes the structure and key elements, without the specific realworld details?
Terminology
Are there any specialized terms, jargon, or technical concepts that are crucial to understanding this problem or solution? Could you define them and explain their role within the context of this problem?
Problem Simplification and Explanation
Could you please break down this problem into simpler terms? What are the key concepts involved and how do they interact? Can you also provide a metaphor or analogy to help me understand the problem better?
Constraints
Given the problem statement and the constraints provided, identify specific characteristics or conditions that can be exploited to our advantage in finding an efficient solution. Look for patterns or specific numerical ranges that could be useful in manipulating or interpreting the data.
What are the key insights from analyzing the constraints?
Case Analysis
Could you please provide additional examples or test cases that cover a wider range of the input space, including edge and boundary conditions? In doing so, could you also analyze each example to highlight different aspects of the problem, key constraints and potential pitfalls, as well as the reasoning behind the expected output for each case? This should help in generating key insights about the problem and ensuring the solution is robust and handles all possible scenarios.
Provide names by categorizing these cases
What are the edge cases?
How to visualize these cases?
What are the key insights from analyzing the different cases?
Identification of Applicable Theoretical Concepts
Can you identify any mathematical or algorithmic concepts or properties that can be applied to simplify the problem or make it more manageable? Think about the nature of the operations or manipulations required by the problem statement. Are there existing theories, metrics, or methodologies in mathematics, computer science, or related fields that can be applied to calculate, measure, or perform these operations more effectively or efficiently?
Simple Explanation
Can you explain this problem in simple terms or like you would explain to a nontechnical person? Imagine you’re explaining this problem to someone without a background in programming. How would you describe it? If you had to explain this problem to a child or someone who doesn’t know anything about coding, how would you do it? In layman’s terms, how would you explain the concept of this problem? Could you provide a metaphor or everyday example to explain the idea of this problem?
Problem Breakdown and Solution Methodology
Given the problem statement, can you explain in detail how you would approach solving it? Please break down the process into smaller steps, illustrating how each step contributes to the overall solution. If applicable, consider using metaphors, analogies, or visual representations to make your explanation more intuitive. After explaining the process, can you also discuss how specific operations or changes in the problem’s parameters would affect the solution? Lastly, demonstrate the workings of your approach using one or more example cases.
Inference of ProblemSolving Approach from the Problem Statement
Can you identify the key terms or concepts in this problem and explain how they inform your approach to solving it? Please list each keyword and how it guides you towards using a specific strategy or method. How can I recognize these properties by drawing tables or diagrams?
How did you infer from the problem statement that this problem can be solved using ?
Simple Explanation of the Proof
I’m having trouble understanding the proof of this algorithm. Could you explain it in a way that’s easy to understand?
Stepwise Refinement
Could you please provide a stepwise refinement of our approach to solving this problem?
How can we take the highlevel solution approach and distill it into more granular, actionable steps?
Could you identify any parts of the problem that can be solved independently?
Are there any repeatable patterns within our solution?
Solution Approach and Analysis
Given the problem statement, can you explain in detail how you would approach solving it? Please break down the process into smaller steps, illustrating how each step contributes to the overall solution. If applicable, consider using metaphors, analogies, or visual representations to make your explanation more intuitive. After explaining the process, can you also discuss how specific operations or changes in the problem’s parameters would affect the solution? Lastly, demonstrate the workings of your approach using one or more example cases.
Identify Invariant
What is the invariant in this problem?
Identify Loop Invariant
What is the loop invariant in this problem?
Thought Process
Can you explain the basic thought process and steps involved in solving this type of problem?
Explain the thought process by thinking step by step to solve this problem from the problem statement and code the final solution. Write code in Python3. What are the cues in the problem statement? What direction does it suggest in the approach to the problem? Generate insights about the problem statement.
Establishing Preconditions and Postconditions
Parameters:
 What are the inputs to the method?
 What types are these parameters?
 What do these parameters represent in the context of the problem?
Preconditions:
 Before this method is called, what must be true about the state of the program or the values of the parameters?
 Are there any constraints on the input parameters?
 Is there a specific state that the program or some part of it must be in?
Method Functionality:
 What is this method expected to do?
 How does it interact with the inputs and the current state of the program?
Postconditions:
 After the method has been called and has returned, what is now true about the state of the program or the values of the parameters?
 What does the return value represent or indicate?
 What side effects, if any, does the method have?
Error Handling:
 How does the method respond if the preconditions are not met?
 Does it throw an exception, return a special value, or do something else?
Problem Decomposition
Problem Understanding:
 Can you explain the problem in your own words? What are the key components and requirements?
Initial Breakdown:
 Start by identifying the major parts or stages of the problem. How can you break the problem into several broad subproblems?
Subproblem Refinement:
 For each subproblem identified, ask yourself if it can be further broken down. What are the smaller tasks that need to be done to solve each subproblem?
Task Identification:
 Within these smaller tasks, are there any that are repeated or very similar? Could these be generalized into a single, reusable task?
Task Abstraction:
 For each task you’ve identified, is it abstracted enough to be clear and reusable, but still makes sense in the context of the problem?
Method Naming:
 Can you give each task a simple, descriptive name that makes its purpose clear?
Subproblem Interactions:
 How do these subproblems or tasks interact with each other? In what order do they need to be performed? Are there any dependencies?
From Brute Force to Optimal Solution
Could you please begin by illustrating a brute force solution for this problem? After detailing and discussing the inefficiencies of the brute force approach, could you then guide us through the process of optimizing this solution? Please explain each step towards optimization, discussing the reasoning behind each decision made, and how it improves upon the previous solution. Also, could you show how these optimizations impact the time and space complexity of our solution?
Code Explanation and Design Decisions
Identify the initial parameters and explain their significance in the context of the problem statement or the solution domain.
Discuss the primary loop or iteration over the input data. What does each iteration represent in terms of the problem you’re trying to solve? How does the iteration advance or contribute to the solution?
If there are conditions or branches within the loop, what do these conditions signify? Explain the logical reasoning behind the branching in the context of the problem’s constraints or requirements.
If there are updates or modifications to parameters within the loop, clarify why these changes are necessary. How do these modifications reflect changes in the state of the solution or the constraints of the problem?
Describe any invariant that’s maintained throughout the code, and explain how it helps meet the problem’s constraints or objectives.
Discuss the significance of the final output in relation to the problem statement or solution domain. What does it represent and how does it satisfy the problem’s requirements?
Remember, the focus here is not to explain what the code does on a syntactic level, but to communicate the intent and rationale behind the code in the context of the problem being solved.
Coding Constructs
Consider the following piece of complex software code.
What are the highlevel problemsolving strategies or techniques being used by this code?
If you had to explain the purpose of this code to a nonprogrammer, what would you say?
Can you identify the logical elements or constructs used in this code, independent of any programming language?
Could you describe the algorithmic approach used by this code in plain English?
What are the key steps or operations this code is performing on the input data, and why?
Can you identify the algorithmic patterns or strategies used by this code, irrespective of the specific programming language syntax?
Language Agnostic Coding Drills
Your mission is to deconstruct this code into the smallest possible learning units, each corresponding to a separate coding concept. Consider these concepts as unique coding drills that can be individually implemented and later assembled into the final solution.
Dissect the code and identify each distinct concept it contains. Remember, this process should be languageagnostic and generally applicable to most modern programming languages.
Once you’ve identified these coding concepts or drills, list them out in order of increasing difficulty. Provide a brief description of each concept and why it is classified at its particular difficulty level.
Next, describe the problemsolving approach that would lead from the problem statement to the final solution. Think about how each of these coding drills contributes to the overall solution. Elucidate the stepbystep process involved in using these drills to solve the problem. Please refrain from writing any actual code; we’re focusing on understanding the process and strategy.
Targeted Drills in Python
Now that you’ve identified and ordered the coding concepts from a complex software code in the previous exercise, let’s focus on creating Pythonbased coding drills for each of those concepts.
Begin by writing a separate piece of Python code that encapsulates each identified concept. These individual drills should illustrate how to implement each concept in Python. Please ensure that these are suitable even for those with a basic understanding of Python.
In addition to the general concepts, identify and write coding drills for any problemspecific concepts that might be needed to create a solution. Describe why these drills are essential for our problem.
Once all drills have been coded, describe how these pieces can be integrated together in the right order to solve the initial problem. Each drill should contribute to building up to the final solution.
Remember, the goal is to not only to write these drills but also to ensure that they can be cohesively assembled into one comprehensive solution.
Q&A
Similar Problems
Can you suggest 10 problems from LeetCode that require similar problemsolving strategies or use similar underlying concepts as the problem we’ve just solved? These problems can be from any domain or topic, but they should involve similar steps or techniques in the solution process. Also, please briefly explain why you consider each of these problems to be related to our original problem.