Given an LU decomposition of $A\in \mathbb{R}^{n\times n}$, is there a way to compute $\operatorname{trace}(A^{-1})$ with lower complexity than that of the inversion ($O(n^3)$ in practice)?

This question has been asked already on Mathoverflow twice and on Math.SE, but the answers there are not useful.


1 Answer 1


Base case: Computing the factorization requires $\frac 2 3n^3$ operations and the inverse requires $\frac 4 3n^3$ operations. Computing the trace adds $O(n)$. Let's round that to $2n^3$.

LU case: Computing the factorization requires $\frac 2 3n^3$ operations. If you were to compute $L^{-1}$ and $U^{-1}$, those operations each require $\frac 1 3n^3$ operations. The trace of the matrix product $U^{-1}L^{-1}$ is essentially a dot product of two vectors with length $n^2$, call that $O(n^2)$. Let's round that to $\frac 4 3n^3$.

Asymptotically, you're no better off. But, you can calculate the trace with approximately 33% fewer operations.

Source: https://software.intel.com/content/www/us/en/develop/documentation/mkl-developer-reference-fortran/top/lapack-routines/lapack-linear-equation-routines/lapack-linear-equation-computational-routines.html

  • $\begingroup$ Good call. I edited my answer to include the factorization time for inversion. Fundamentally, inverting a triangular matrix is still $O(n^3)$, and you need every coefficient of $L$ and $U$ to compute the trace. However, reducing the run time of your routine by 30 or 50% is definitely worth the effort, even if you can't change the asymptotic behavior! $\endgroup$
    – Charlie S
    Commented Nov 13, 2020 at 17:38

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