This is my first real optimisation problem I formulated and now trying to solve by using AMPL.

The following objective function is from a linear 0-1 LP means all variables $x_i^b\in\{0,1\}$, with $i\in[1,n]$ and $b$ referring to the type of the node, which means $0$ and $1$ say a node is or is not of a certain type.

The objective function is as follows with $A$ a set of nodes, $N[a]$ a set of all neighbours of $a$ including $a$, and $n$ a given number of types:

$$\min - \sum_{a\in A}f\left(\frac1n\sum\limits_{i=1}^nf\left(\sum\limits_{b\in N[a]}x_i^b\right)\right)$$


$$ f:\mathbb{R}\mapsto\{0,1\}\\ f(x):=\begin{cases}0,&x<1\\1,&x\geq 1\end{cases} $$

I already heard that AMPL doesn't support the definition of functions/methods and that I have to use the Big M method to create this objective function. I couldn't really figure out yet how to use the method to replace my case distinctions...

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to OR.SE! Have you checked other questions on the site, such as this one: In an integer program, how can I “activate” a constraint only if a decision variable has a certain value? $\endgroup$
    – EhsanK
    Jan 30, 2020 at 14:19
  • $\begingroup$ I suppose you mean $\min \sum\limits_{a\in A}f\left(\dfrac1n\sum\limits_{i=1}^nf\left(\sum\limits_{b\in N[a]}x_i^b\right)\right)$ as the minus sign would indicate $\max$. $\endgroup$
    – TheSimpliFire
    Jan 30, 2020 at 19:57
  • $\begingroup$ Note that if M is set too large, you can run into numeric problems - see e.g. groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/ampl/3O7DsZuXIi4 so be careful to check that your solution really does satisfy the constraints. $\endgroup$ Jan 31, 2020 at 1:56
  • $\begingroup$ yeah it has been a max but I thought to remember, that I have to minimise the objective function when all constraints are $\geq C$ maybe I was wrong (therefore I turned the max + to min - $\endgroup$
    – baxbear
    Jan 31, 2020 at 13:46

1 Answer 1


Let $\rho$ be some small value. \begin{align}M \times f(x) &\geq x - 1 + \rho\\M \times (1 - f(x)) &\geq 1 - x - \rho\end{align}

Here is the small working code in Python pulp

import pulp as pl

prob = pl.LpProblem("Problem", pl.LpMinimize)
x = 1
f = pl.LpVariable("f_{0}", 0, 1, pl.LpBinary)
prob += f
M = 100
prob += M * f >= x - 1 + 0.001
prob += M * (1 - f) >= 1 - x - 0.0001


for v in prob.variables():
    print(v.name, "=", v.varValue)
  • $\begingroup$ Can I ask for another detail - I am very interested in the "WHY" so why is it not possible to solve objective functions with case distinctions directly? $\endgroup$
    – baxbear
    Feb 14, 2020 at 12:31

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