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FM Spanning Trees

3.3 Guide to Minimal Connector Problems

Note: if you cannot remember how to construct minimum spanning trees using Prim’s algorithm, revise notes for 3.2 Minimum Spanning Trees.

Guide to Analysing Minimal Connector Problems

  • Minimal connector problems are problems which require the use of a minimum spanning tree.
  • Always use Prim’s algorithm unless otherwise stated as inspection is more error prone and generally slower.
  • It is generally easier to select a starting node with a small amount of edges.
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3.2 Minimum Spanning Trees

Note: if you cannot remember what a spanning tree is, revise notes for 3.1 Trees and Spanning Trees.

Minimum Spanning Trees

  • Most connected graphs will have multiple spanning trees. In a weighted graph, one of these spanning trees will have the lowest weight (i.e. the sum of each edge’s weight is the least). This is known as a minimum spanning tree.
  • Minimum spanning trees are commonly used for optimisation problems. For example, when transferring products between towns, it is advantageous to know the fastest way of doing so.

By Inspection

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3.1 Trees and Spanning Trees

Note: if you cannot remember what cycles or loops are, revise notes for 2.1 Introduction to Walks


  • A tree is a connected network graph which does not contain loops, multiple edges or cycles.
  • One way of thinking about this, is that it is a graph that continuously branches out like a tree.
  • Every connected graph will have at least one subgraph which is a tree.
  • It uses the smallest number of edges to connect the graph.
  • A tree with n vertices has n-1 edges.


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