Challenge 150 Task #2 - Squarefree integers

Task #2


Original Description

Write a script to generate all square-free integers <= 500.

In mathematics, a square-free integer (or squarefree integer) is an integer which is divisible by no perfect square other than 1. That is, its prime factorization has exactly one factor for each prime that appears in it. For example, 10 = 2 ⋅ 5 is square-free, but 18 = 2 ⋅ 3 ⋅ 3 is not, because 18 is divisible by 9 = 3**2.


The smallest positive square-free integers are
    1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 22, 23, 26, 29, 30, ...


Full Source

From the description of the task we learn what we have to do for this challenge:

Search through the first 500 integers for the ones that are squarefree and print out the result.

So how do we check if a number is squarefree?

According to the task description we will factorize the given number into its prime components and check if there are any duplicates in the factors. We’ll start by laying out this framework and filling in the details later.

We will employ Perls built-in grep routine to do the filtering for us. The filter predicate is a is_squarefree routine that we are about to define in the next step. We then go on to print out the filtered lists as comma separated values.

my @square_free = grep { is_squarefree() } 1 .. 500;
say join( ', ', @square_free );

is_squarefree is defined by a straightforward translation of the process described above into Perl syntax.

sub is_squarefree($x) {
    my @prime_factors = prime_factors($x);
    return no_dupes(@prime_factors);

With this in place we can now start getting our hands dirty on the details.

Let’s take care of the prime factors. First it’s important to know, that every natural number has a unique prime factorization. In other words, we should be able to define a routine that works for every integer input. If we had an ordered list of all primes, we could walk this list, until we find a prime that evenly divides our number. This will then be our first prime factor. If we continue this process with the quotient of the division until it reaches 1 we have found all prime factors. Since it’s impossible to calculate all primes, and we don’t know the maximum prime we will need, we need a way to lazily get and calculate the nth prime. (Actually we know the maximum prime we require for the task will be 499, but I think it’s boring to pre-calculate them and build a solution that will not work for inputs greater than 500) In Haskell or Raku we would probably reach for a lazy list for our primes, but in Perl we don’t have that at hand. Instead, we will use a subroutine that we can ask for the nth prime and have it calculate it for us.

sub prime_factors($x) {
    my @factors;
    my $prime = 0;
    while ( $x > 1 ) {
        my $test_factor = primes($prime);
        next unless $x % $test_factor == 0;
        push @factors, $test_factor;
        $x     = $x / $test_factor;
        $prime = 0;
    return @factors;

For our makeshift lazy prime list we use a state list that will persist previously calculated primes across different invocations of the sub. We can then check if we already calculated the prime at the requested index $n and only if we don’t have it, yet we kick off the process of generating the missing primes up to the index. At last, we return the requested index from our @primes list.

sub primes($n) {
    state @primes = (2);

    for ( my $i = $primes[-1] + 1 ; $#primes < $n ; $i++ ) {
        push @primes, $i if is_prime($i);

    return $primes[$n];

To check if a number is prime we hardcode the result for values up to 3. For all other values we walk from 2 to the symmetry axis of division and check if we find an even divisor of $x. If we didn’t find a divisor we know our number is a prime. This is by far not the fastest or most optimal process of finding prime numbers. It’s fast enough for our purposes though, straightforward to implement and easy to understand. That’s why I’m using it here.

sub is_prime($x) {
    return 0 if $x <= 1;
    return 1 if $x <= 3;
    for ( my $i = 2 ; $i < sqrt($x) ; $i++ ) {
        return 0 if $x % $i == 0;
    return 1;

The final piece needed to finish the implementation is the no_dupes routine that checks if the given list is free of duplicates. We do this by iterating through the list, incrementing a counter in a %seen hash for each value in the list. In each iteration we also check if the counter gets bigger than one and return 0 when that is the case, as it means we found a duplicate. If we make it through the loop we know, that no duplicates have been found, and we return a 1.

sub no_dupes(@xs) {
    my %seen;
    for my $x (@xs) {
        $seen{$x} += 1;
        return 0 if $seen{$x} > 1;
    return 1;