I have an integer optimization problem with one constraint per decision variable and no objective function. It can be coded and solved using docplex, however I am struggling to implement an equivalent model in PuLP.


Given a series with indices 0...n, find integer values of the series such that the value for each index i corresponds to the number of occurrences of i in the series.

For example, a solution for n = 4 is:

0 1 2 3 4
2 1 2 0 0

For index i=0, the value is 2, which corresponds to the series "2, 1, 2, 0, 0" containing two occurrences of the value 0. Index i=1 has a value of 1, corresponding to the single occurrence of 1 in the series. And so on.

Docplex implementation works!

from docplex.cp.model import CpoModel

# Data
n = 5
NUMBERS = range(n)

# Model instance
mdl = CpoModel(name='find series')

# Decision variables
s = mdl.integer_var_list(n, 0, n-1, "series")

# Constraint: Value should equal the # of occurrences of the index in the series

for i in NUMBERS:
    mdl.add(sum(s[j] == i for j in NUMBERS) == s[i])

# Solve
msol = mdl.solve()

PuLP attempts do NOT work!

Not sure if it matters, but I'm using the default CBC PuLP solver in both attempts below.

Attempt 1

In this attempt, the if statement of the constraint seems to always evaluate to True, such that the constraints become X[i] = 5, which is infeasible since the maximum value of the decision variables is n = 4.

from pulp import *

# Data
n = 4
NUMBERS = range(n+1)

# Model instance
model = LpProblem("FindSeries")

# Decision variables
X = LpVariable.dicts('X', NUMBERS, lowBound=0, upBound=n, cat=LpInteger)

# Constraint: Value should equal the # of occurrences of the index in the series
for i in NUMBERS:
    model += lpSum([1 for j in NUMBERS if X[j]==i]) - X[i] == 0

# Solve

The constraints look like:

_C1: - X_0  = -5
_C2: - X_1  = -5
_C3: - X_2  = -5
_C4: - X_3  = -5
_C5: - X_4  = -5

Attempt 2

When the above failed, I tried implementing the constraint another way, more similar to the docplex code.

# Constraint: Value should equal the # of occurrences of the index in the series
for i in NUMBERS:
    model += lpSum([X[j]==i for j in NUMBERS]) == X[i]

This time, I'm totally confused about what is going on. The model constraints look like this:

_C1: 0 X_0 + X_1 + X_2 + X_3 + X_4 = 0
_C2: X_0 + 0 X_1 + X_2 + X_3 + X_4 = 5
_C3: X_0 + X_1 + 0 X_2 + X_3 + X_4 = 10
_C4: X_0 + X_1 + X_2 + 0 X_3 + X_4 = 15
_C5: X_0 + X_1 + X_2 + X_3 + 0 X_4 = 20


  • Is it possible to solve this using PuLP + default CBC solver?
    • If not, why not?
    • If so,
      • How can I code the model correctly in PuLP?
      • Why did my PuLP attempts fail as they did?
  • $\begingroup$ I am not sure, but I think this sum(s[j] == i for j in NUMBERS) is the problem. It seems you are summing over boolean-expressions where you count one up, if s[j]=i. This seems to be specific syntax for CPLEX. At least it looks very much like the syntax used in OPL - see e.g. under "Logical constraints for counting" at the cplex documentation $\endgroup$
    – Sune
    Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 15:29

2 Answers 2


A simple equivalent MIP model can be built as follows.

Introduce a binary variable $y_{i,j}\in\{0,1\}$ such that $y_{i,j}=1\Leftrightarrow x_i=j$. The problem can now be formulated as a straight MIP model (just add a dummy objective):

$$ \begin{aligned} &x_i = \sum_j j\cdot y_{i,j}&& \forall i && \text{extract value}\\ &\sum_j y_{i,j} = 1 && \forall i && \text{exactly one value in each row of $y$}\\ &x_i = \sum_j y_{j,i} && \forall i && \text{count occurrences}\\ &y_{i,j} \in \{0,1\} \end{aligned} $$

If you want, you can substitute out $x_i$ and recover those values during reporting.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, I am already aware that this is an alternative problem formulation. But my goal is to implement the same problem formulation in PuLP which I know works in docplex (or if that is not possible, to understand why). $\endgroup$
    – SlowLoris
    Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 14:17
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, I must have missed that in your question. Of course, this is because CP$\ne$ MIP. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 14:18
  • $\begingroup$ Do I understand your comment to mean that it is actually impossible for CBC/PuLP to solve the problem as formulated? If so, that partially answers my question, although I still don't understand what it the fundamental difference in the way the problem is defined, or how PuLP is interpreting the problem. $\endgroup$
    – SlowLoris
    Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 14:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You solved it in docplex using constraint programming (CP). PuLP does not support CP (and CBC is not a CP solver). So all kinds of CP constraints cannot be used directly. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 14:32

It looks like you are confusing the variables of your problem ($x_i$) with the parameters (the number of occurrences $s_i$). The way I understand your problem is as follows:

The mathematical expression of your constraint is $$ \sum_{j}x_j = s_i \quad \mbox{for all }i $$ where $s_i$ denotes the number of occurrences of value $i$ in the series.

With PuLP:

for i in s:
   model += lpSum(x[j] for j in x) == s[i]


I misunderstood the question and am editing according the comments below. So the constraint is $$ \sum_{j}|\{j : x_j=i\}| = x_i \quad \mbox{for all }i $$

This is not a linear constraint and thus cannot be implemented as is in PuLp. I suggest to use Erwin's MIP below, which can be solved with PuLp.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The values of $s_i$ are not given. The desired constraint is instead $$\sum_j |\{j: x_j = i\}| = x_i,$$ where $|.|$ denotes cardinality. $\endgroup$
    – RobPratt
    Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 14:03
  • $\begingroup$ @RobPratt is correct. Also please see the docplex solution in my question, which works as desired, and has a very similar syntax to my second attempt at a PuLP solution. That may help clarify the intent. $\endgroup$
    – SlowLoris
    Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 14:12

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