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What is an algorithm? – Definition, Characteristics, Examples, and More

What is an algorithm? – Definition, Characteristics, Examples, and More


An algorithm is a well-ordered and finite set of simple operations to solve a problem.

The word algorithm comes from the late Latin alborarismus, and this, in turn, is an abbreviation of the classical Arabic ḥisābu lḡubār, which means ‘calculation by Arabic numerals.’

However, Algorithms allow us to perform an action or solve a problem through a series of defined, ordered, and finite instructions.

What are the Characteristics of an Algorithm?

  • Every Algorithm must comply with these essential characteristics:
  • Firstly, They have a beginning and an end: every Algorithm begins in an initial state with a series of specific data and ends with a solution or exit.
  • Secondly, They work in sequence: an algorithm made up of a series of ordered steps.
  • The sequences are concrete: each step is clear and leaves no room for ambiguity.
  • Lastly, Algorithms are abstract: they are models or guides to order processes.
  • The number of steps in an algorithm is finite.

What are the Examples of algorithms?

  • Although it is a common term in Mathematics, Computer science, logic, and other related disciplines, the fact is that we use algorithms to solve questions in everyday life. For example:

Kitchen Recipes

  • They explain the step by step to create a meal with a finite number of ingredients.
  • The initial state would be the raw ingredients and the final form of the prepared food.


  • They serve as a guide to executing processes and building a library to activate a mobile phone.
  • In these cases, the final state is the product assembled, installed, turned on, in operation, etc.

Mathematical operations

  • In mathematics, an example of algorithms is multiplication.
  • We follow an order of operations to obtain a product; or division, which allows us to determine two quotients.
  • However, Euclid’s Algorithm, with which we obtain the greatest common divisor of two positive integers, is another example.
  • A flow chart graphically represents the algorithms.

What is computing in an Algorithm?

  • In computing or programming, the Algorithm is the sequence of instructions through which we can solve a problem or question.
  • A Computer built on algorithms performs all the tasks.
  • Basically, A software or computer program introduces a task and solve it, based on algorithms.

What are Problems in Algorithm?

  • Despite the algorithms’ longevity and computers’ maturity, the word algorithm has become fashionable in recent years.
  • However, “Computers calculate much faster than a human brain, and since the appearance of the internet, there is a leap, and things are being reached that seemed impossible,” says Miguel Toro.
  • Basically, “Algorithms are using to predict electoral results, to know our tastes, and the world of work is algorithmizing.
  • The different tasks become algorithms, and works automatically,” explains the professor.
  • The only non- algorithmic tasks at the moment are those related to creativity and human emotions, which is our advantage.
  • Let us add that, and the Technological Revolution will create new jobs. Toro believes that there will never be many jobs and that it concentrates in people and countries with sufficient preparation.
  • “That is why an idea that seemed typical of the left.
  • And also, The universal basic income was proposing by Bill Gates and experimented with in places like California or Finland.
  • However, there must be consumers so that the economic system does not collapse.

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