On Oct 1, 2013, at 1:51 PM, Floyd Resler <fres...@adex-intl.com> wrote:

> Here's my task: A group of kids is going to be staying with different host 
> families throughout the next 8 months.  The number of kids staying with a 
> host family can range from 2 to 10.  When deciding which kids should stay 
> together at a host family, the idea is for the system to put together kids 
> who have stayed with each other the least on past weekends.  So, if a host 
> family can keep 5 kids, then the group of 5 kids who have stayed together the 
> least will be chosen.
> I can't think of an easy, quick way to accomplish this.  I've tried various 
> approaches that have resulted in a lot of coding and being very slow.  My 
> idea was to give each group of kids a score and the lowest score is the group 
> that is selected.  However, this approach wound of iterating through several 
> arrays several times which was really slow.  Does anyone have any ideas on 
> this puzzle?
> Thanks!
> Floyd
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While definitely a tempting coding exercise, I just want to say that if this is 
urgent in any way, shuffling cards with the kids' names on them by hand might 
just be faster and less frustrating :)

OTOH, if this is something you're going to have to figure out week after week, 
then a software solution might be handy.

This is also not an *easy* problem to solve; there isn't a simple approach to 
optimizing this sort of thing because you're building a net between all the 
various kids based on past stays, in addition to the constraints of host family 
 capacity. Thus your previous code attempts might in fact be the end result.

Obviously, structuring the data is the key here.

I'm thinking of 3 primary models: Kids, Hosts, and Stays.

Kids and Hosts seem pretty obvious. Stays is the interesing model, and needs to 
have joining tables with Kids and Hosts.

A Stay will have one Host, and have many Kids and a date.

The algorithm then needs to make the graph where it can pull out the number of 
times any particular kid has stayed with another, looking something like this:

   Ben: 10
   Jill: 3
   Carlos: 7
   Chen: 2
   Amy: 10
   Jill: 5
   Carlos: 8
   Chen: 3
   … and so on

Then you be able to pull through that graph and find the smallest number of 
stays for each kid.

Not simple, but I hope this helps.

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