Find the missing number in Arithmetic Progression


Given an array that represents elements of arithmetic progression in order. One element is missing in the progression, find the missing number.


Input: arr[]  = {2, 4, 8, 10, 12, 14}
Output: 6

Input: arr[]  = {1, 6, 11, 16, 21, 31};
Output: 26

A Simple Solution is to linearly traverse the array and find the missing number. Time complexity of this solution is O(n).

We can solve this problem in O(Logn) time using Binary Search. The idea is to go to the middle element. Check if the difference between middle and next to middle is equal to diff or not, if not then the missing element lies between mid and mid+1. If the middle element is equal to n/2th term in Arithmetic Series (Let n be the number of elements in input array), then missing element lies in right half. Else element lies in left half.

Following is C implementation of above idea.

// A C program to find the missing number in a given
// arithmetic progression
#include <stdio.h>
#include <limits.h>

// A binary search based recursive function that returns
// the missing element in arithmetic progression
int findMissingUtil(int arr[], int low, int high, int diff)
    // There must be two elements to find the missing
    if (high <= low)
        return INT_MAX;

    // Find index of middle element
    int mid = low + (high - low)/2;

    // The element just after the middle element is missing.
    // The arr[mid+1] must exist, because we return when
    // (low == high) and take floor of (high-low)/2
    if (arr[mid+1] - arr[mid] != diff)
        return (arr[mid] + diff);

    // The element just before mid is missing
    if (mid > 0 && arr[mid] - arr[mid-1] != diff)
        return (arr[mid-1] + diff);

    // If the elements till mid follow AP, then recur
    // for right half
    if (arr[mid] == arr[0] + mid*diff)
        return findMissingUtil(arr, mid+1, high, diff);

    // Else recur for left half
    return findMissingUtil(arr, low, mid-1, diff);

// The function uses findMissingUtil() to find the missing
// element in AP.  It assumes that there is exactly one missing
// element and may give incorrect result when there is no missing
// element or more than one missing elements.
// This function also assumes that the difference in AP is an
// integer.
int findMissing(int arr[], int n)
    // If exactly one element is missing, then we can find
    // difference of arithmetic progression using following
    // formula.  Example, 2, 4, 6, 10, diff = (10-2)/4 = 2.
    // The assumption in formula is that the difference is
    // an integer.
    int diff = (arr[n-1] - arr[0])/n;

    // Binary search for the missing number using above
    // calculated diff
    return findMissingUtil(arr, 0, n-1, diff);

/* Driver program to check above functions */
int main()
    int arr[] = {2, 4, 8, 10, 12, 14};
    int n = sizeof(arr)/sizeof(arr[0]);
    printf("The missing element is %d", findMissing(arr, n));
    return 0;


The missing element is 6

Solve the same problem for Geometrical Series. What is the time complexity of your solution? What about Fibonacci Series?

This article is contributed by Harshit Agrawal. Please write comments if you find anything incorrect, or you want to share more information about the topic discussed above.

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