Sum of Squares of First N Numbers

by Zoran Horvat
Dec 14, 2013

Given a positive number N, write a function which returns sum of squares of numbers between 1 and N, i.e. 1^2 + 2^2 + ... + N^2.

Example: If N is 5, then return value should be 55 (1 + 4 + 9 + 16 + 25 = 55).

Problem Analysis

It is easy to produce sum o squares of a sequence by simply iterating through numbers 1 to N. Here is the function which does precisely that:

function Sum(n)
    sum = 0
    for i = 1 to n
        sum = sum + i * i
    return sum

This function runs in O(N) time and O(1) space. In order to improve the running time of the function, we need to find a definite form of the sum of squares. That is possible to do, and here is one of the ways to derive the simple form of the expression:


This derivation depends on the equation for calculating simple sum of the numbers 1 to N, which is explained in exercise Sum of First N Numbers . Now the function that runs in O(1) time and O(1) space looks like this:

function Sum(n)
    return n * (n + 1) * (2 * n + 1) / 6


Below is the full listing of a console application in C# which lets the user enter value N and then prints the sum of squares of the sequence.

using System;

namespace SumOfSquares

    public class Program

        static int Sum(int n)
            return n * (n + 1) * (2 * n + 1)  6;

        static void Main(string[] args)

            while (true)

                Console.Write("Enter sequence length (zero to exit): ");
                int n = int.Parse(Console.ReadLine());

                if (n <= 0)

                Console.WriteLine("Sum of the sequence is {0}\n", Sum(n));





When application is run, it produces output like this:

Enter sequence length (zero to exit): 4
Sum of the sequence is 30

Enter sequence length (zero to exit): 5
Sum of the sequence is 55

Enter sequence length (zero to exit): 217
Sum of the sequence is 3429685

Enter sequence length (zero to exit): 0


Zoran Horvat

Zoran Horvat is the Principal Consultant at Coding Helmet, speaker and author of 100+ articles, and independent trainer on .NET technology stack. He can often be found speaking at conferences and user groups, promoting object-oriented and functional development style and clean coding practices and techniques that improve longevity of complex business applications.

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