FAQ: Hash Maps: Conceptual - Separate Chaining

This community-built FAQ covers the “Separate Chaining” exercise from the lesson “Hash Maps: Conceptual”.

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This exercise can be found in the following Codecademy content:

Computer Science

Complex Data Structures

FAQs on the exercise Separate Chaining

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In the lesson, it is asked: “What would the benefits of using a tree at each index?”

Unless I’m mistaken, in the course so far no “tree” has been mentioned. Is this a separate data type or something else? Maybe the lesson should be updated to reflect what a tree is.


Hi @byteninja93187,

Yeah, you’ll learn about trees right after you complete the material on hash maps. Trees are more efficient for performing searches than linked lists.

Following is an illustration from the Codecademy introductory material on trees:

If you’re looking for a number in this tree, say 31, you start at the top (the root node). At each node, compare the number that you’re looking for with the number at the current node. Then:

  • If the number you’re looking for is the same as the one at the current node, you found it.
  • If the number you’re looking for is smaller than the one at the current node, follow the left branch.
  • If the number you’re looking for is greater than the one at the current node, follow the right branch.
  • If you’ve performed the comparison, and the branch you want to follow is not there, then the number is not in the tree.

For a hash map, each index (or bucket) would have a tree instead of a linked list. You would be storing keys and values in the tree. The comparisons you make along the way would involve the keys. Note that as you follow a branch in the tree, you are eliminating all the nodes along the branch that was not followed, which imparts efficiency to the search. At indexes where there were only a few nodes stored, the gain in efficiency wouldn’t be very much, but if for some reason lots of keys mapped to the same index, the gain could be significant.

Edited on June 16, 2019 to note that there would be a tree instead of a linked list at each index


It will probably be answered by the forthcoming lessons, but I think this article doesn’t really explain how you are supposed to look for the value corresponding to a certain key in the hash map.

With the provided script, both “lapis” and “lap” map to position “2” in the hash map, so their values are added to the linked list. Like so:

Now, say that I want to retrieve the value for “lap”… The hash function will return “2”, so, that’s where I would go to search for the value, but I find a linked list with two values: How do I know which one is for “lapis” and which one for “lap”?

1 Like

Yes, nevermind, the next lesson covered it, hehe.