# Monotonic Stack Pattern: A Comprehensive Guide to Maintaining Order

In the realm of algorithmic problem-solving, the “Monotonic Stack” pattern is a powerful and versatile technique used to maintain a monotonic order of elements, where elements are either entirely non-increasing or non-decreasing. This pattern leverages a stack data structure to efficiently process and manage elements while preserving their desired order. The Monotonic Stack pattern finds applications in various problems that require tracking and manipulating elements in a specific monotonic fashion. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the Monotonic Stack pattern, understand its applications, delve into problem-solving strategies, and provide real-world examples to illustrate its practical relevance.

The Monotonic Stack pattern is a valuable technique for maintaining monotonic order in elements, whether you’re finding the next greater or smaller element, computing the largest rectangle in a histogram, evaluating expressions, or building parsing trees. By understanding its applications and employing appropriate strategies, you can efficiently track and manipulate elements in a specific monotonic fashion. Whether you’re solving problems related to element traversal, order preservation, or expression evaluation, the Monotonic Stack pattern empowers you to efficiently manage and process elements while preserving their desired order, making it an essential tool in the world of algorithmic problem-solving.

Understanding the Monotonic Stack Pattern

The Monotonic Stack pattern is an algorithmic approach that utilizes a stack to maintain elements in a specific monotonic order. In a non-increasing monotonic stack, elements are arranged in decreasing order from the bottom to the top of the stack. Conversely, in a non-decreasing monotonic stack, elements are arranged in increasing order. The pattern is particularly useful when solving problems that involve finding the next greater or smaller element, computing the maximum area under histograms, or solving related traversal and manipulation tasks.

Key Applications of the Monotonic Stack Pattern

1. Next Greater/Smaller Element: Determining the next greater or smaller element for each element in an array or list.
2. Largest Rectangle in Histogram: Finding the largest rectangle that can be formed in a histogram.
3. Expression Evaluation: Evaluating arithmetic expressions involving operators and operands.
4. Parsing and Parsing Trees: Building and processing parsing trees for parsing languages and expressions.

Strategies for Monotonic Stack Problem Solving

1. Stack Initialization: Initialize an empty stack to hold elements and a data structure (e.g., list or array) to store results.
2. Iterate Through Elements: Traverse through the elements, and for each element, perform the following steps:

a. While the stack is not empty and the current element violates the monotonic order (either increasing or decreasing), pop elements from the stack and process them as needed.

b. Push the current element onto the stack.

3. Finalize Processing: After processing all elements, handle any remaining elements in the stack, if applicable.

Real-World Examples

Let’s illustrate the Monotonic Stack pattern with real-world scenarios:

Example 1: Next Greater Element

Given an array of integers, find the next greater element for each element in the array.

def nextGreaterElement(nums):
result = [-1] * len(nums)
stack = []

for i, num in enumerate(nums):
while stack and nums[stack[-1]] < num:
result[stack.pop()] = num
stack.append(i)

return result


Example 2: Largest Rectangle in Histogram

Given a histogram represented by an array of heights, find the largest rectangle that can be formed within the histogram.

def largestRectangleArea(heights):
stack = []
max_area = 0

for i, h in enumerate(heights):
while stack and heights[stack[-1]] > h:
height = heights[stack.pop()]
width = i if not stack else i - stack[-1] - 1
max_area = max(max_area, height * width)
stack.append(i)

while stack:
height = heights[stack.pop()]
width = len(heights) if not stack else len(heights) - stack[-1] - 1
max_area = max(max_area, height * width)

return max_area