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Arithmetic Expression Construction

by   Leo Alcock, et al.

When can n given numbers be combined using arithmetic operators from a given subset of {+, -, ×, ÷} to obtain a given target number? We study three variations of this problem of Arithmetic Expression Construction: when the expression (1) is unconstrained; (2) has a specified pattern of parentheses and operators (and only the numbers need to be assigned to blanks); or (3) must match a specified ordering of the numbers (but the operators and parenthesization are free). For each of these variants, and many of the subsets of {+,-,×,÷}, we prove the problem NP-complete, sometimes in the weak sense and sometimes in the strong sense. Most of these proofs make use of a "rational function framework" which proves equivalence of these problems for values in rational functions with values in positive integers.


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