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C# Class to generate Math. Combinations

, 7 May 2014
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Fast algorithm


This article introduce simple class able to generate all possible combination sets of non-repetitive (k) elements of a predefined set consist of number of non-repetitive (n) elements, the combination is a way of selecting members from a grouping,, I wrote this code while I'm currently developing an algorithm to find best group of employees are selected from a working group of engineers based on some predefined rules, after excluding the unwanted combinations, some of all possible combinations of these engineers can be extracted.. the included class can be used for fast combinations generations when the total number of combinations becomes in millions.


As known in Mathematics the total number of these generated subsets can be calculated by the formula :

\begin{equation} ^{^{{\Large n}}}{\Large C}_{k} = {n \choose k} = \frac{n!}{k!(n-k)!} \end{equation}

where n! , k! & (n-k)! are the factorials calculated as

n! = n x ((n-1)) x ((n-2)) x ((n-3)) x ….. 3 x 2 x 1

Example :

consider the following example To select different combinations of 5 elements from a group of 7 elements :

  1. Original set of 7 elements
    OrgSet[7] = { S1 S2 S3 S4 S5 S6 S7 }
  2. A subset combination of 5 elements named as
    CombSet[5] = {E1 E2 E3 E4 E5 }
    which are selected from OrgSet elements.
  3. Counter pointer CP which point to an element of the SubSet array that to be stepped up to generate the next combination, The CP pointer initially points to the last element of CombSet which is
    { E5 }
  4. Max Limit array always has the same CombSet size which holds max values allowed for each CombSet element
    Max[] = { mx1 mx2 mx3 mx4 mx5 }
    OrgSet is Initialized with series of integers from 1 to 7 So
     OrgSet[] = { 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 }
    Max, which has the same size of CombSet (5 elements), is initialized with the last elements of OrgSet to be
    Max[] ={ 3 4 5 6 7 }

CombSet is initialized with a series of integers from 1 to 5 to be CombSet = { 1 2 3 4 5 }.

Now check the following table carefully which shows the logic sequence to generate all possible combination Sets of 5 elements selected from a original Set of 7 elements, note that E(CP) is not a function of CP but it means E5 when CP=5 or E4 when CP=4 and so on :

Another way to describe what is happening to generate these combinations :


check if counting pointer refer to first element which has reached its Max value,

  • if (Yes) so no more available new results & return back,
  • if (No) continue to below.

Check 1 :

check if the element value reffered to by counting pointer to its Max value by reading Max[CP] .

  • if (Yes) Move the counting pointer to previous location E(n-1) and step it up one step then loop to chck1
  • if (No) continue to below.

Check 2 :

check if the (element value pointed to by CP) +1 = (its Max value)

  • if (Yes) adjust all next elements to equal its previous elements + 1 so that En = E(n-1) + 1.
    Do this up to the last element which is the most right element E5.
  • if (No) Step up that element referred to by counter pointer E(cp) ++.

reset the counter pointer to last element E5,
start over from the Begining to find the next combination.

Here is the flow char of the NextComb() method which clarify its details :

Using the code

After downloading the code you will find the followings :

one constructor and Four methods, they are :

public TCombinator (int elementSize,int CombinationSize) 

constructor take two initial parameters (elementSize, CombinationSize) .

Public void Initializ_Element() 

used to initialize OrgSet [x] Elements with series of +ve integers from 1 up to its length .

public void Initializ_Combin() 

used to initialize Max Ary against each identical element of combAry[] .

public void NextCombin() 

with each call generates new combination updated in CombSet[].

UInt64 CalcCombNum(UInt64 n,UInt64 r) 

to calculate the number of total combinations .

UInt64 Factorial(UInt64 n)  

to calculate the factorial of n .

Two properties are :

n_Element used to Set/get n# of Element of OrgSet, Resize OrgSet[]

k_Combin used to Set/get n# of Combined SubSet Elements, Resize SubSet[]

this class is used through the user interface as shown below :

The main Method that generates the combinations is shown here :

public void NextCombin() 
    //End of process no new combinations available
    if (Finished) return;

    //last location (which is first element) 
    if (CombSet[1] >= Max[1]) { Finished = true; return; } 
    if (CombSet[CP] == Max[CP]) 
        //Loop & step down TC till find CombAry[] != Max[] 
        while (CombSet[CP] == Max[CP]) 
         //in case the element < its Max value Advance element at 
         //[TC] one step then re-adjust all next elements from location (TC) upto 
         //last location (CombArySZ),, Or Advance element at [TC] one Step directly 
         int Loc = CombSet[CP]; 
         if (CombSet[CP]+1 == Max[CP]) 
             CombSet[CP] = ++Loc; 
             for (int t = CP; t <= var_Combin; t++) 
                 CombSet[t] = ++Loc; 
         //after this element readjustment, alwayes TC must be reset to 
         //the last element in CombAry[] 
         CP = var_Combin; 
     // the new combination result has been generated, that you can display or store. 

Points of Interest

While I’m writing this code I discovered better way to make it faster algorithm !


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

About the Author

Egypt Egypt
I'm Automatic Control Engineer,interested in Programming since I was 14 yeas old started with"Basic" then C++ then finally 2003 I moved to C#, recently I learned WPF to shine my Softwares like CAD s/w, I used to use programming languages to solve the mathematical problems,
17yrs ago I wrote a code to build an assembler for 8051, I made 64 bit I/O board for digital projects too, and code downloader testing board, both I designed on Protel PCB designer, I used them to make motor speed drive working with 8951 for a press machine..
I like physics too, it seems like a glasses when you wear, you see the world differently and know something you have never imagine..and you can understand, expect, find the answers more better.
I am using my analytic power to be creative for the new things and I prefer working for complex problems than easy ones.
I like reading, scientific applications, Hand works, wood works, documentaries, general history, history of the science ..

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Comments and Discussions

Questionvery nice PinprofessionalBillW3323-Apr-14 6:31 
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