Factorial modulo $p$ in $O(p \log n)$

In some cases it is necessary to consider complex formulas modulo $p$, containing factorials in both numerator and denominator. We consider the case when $p$ is relatively small. This problem makes sense only when factorials are included in both numerator and denominator of fractions. Otherwise $p!$ and subsequent terms will reduce to zero, but in fractions all multipliers containing $p$ can be reduced, and the resulting expression will be non-zero modulo $p$.

Thus, formally the task is: You want to calculate $n! \bmod p$, without taking all the multiple factors of $p$ into account that appear in the factorial. Imaging you write down the prime factorization of $n!$, remove all factors $p$, and compute the product modulo $p$. We will denote this modified factorial with $n!_{\%p}$.

Learning how to effectively calculate this modified factorial allows us to quickly calculate the value of the various combinatorial formulae (for example, Binomial coefficients).


Let's write this modified factorial explicitly.

$$\begin{eqnarray} n!_{\%p} &=& 1 \cdot 2 \cdot 3 \cdot \ldots \cdot (p-2) \cdot (p-1) \cdot \underbrace{1}_{p} \cdot (p+1) \cdot (p+2) \cdot \ldots \cdot (2p-1) \cdot \underbrace{2}_{2p} \\ & &\quad \cdot (2p+1) \cdot \ldots \cdot (p^2-1) \cdot \underbrace{1}_{p^2} \cdot (p^2 +1) \cdot \ldots \cdot n \pmod{p} \\ &=& 1 \cdot 2 \cdot 3 \cdot \ldots \cdot (p-2) \cdot (p-1) \cdot \underbrace{1}_{p} \cdot 2 \cdot \ldots \cdot (p-1) \cdot \underbrace{2}_{2p} \cdot 1 \cdot 2 \\ & &\quad \cdot \ldots \cdot (p-1) \cdot \underbrace{1}_{p^2} \cdot 1 \cdot 2 \cdot \ldots \cdot (n \bmod p) \pmod{p} \end{eqnarray}$$

It can be clearly seen that factorial is divided into several blocks of same length except for the last one.

$$\begin{eqnarray} n!_{\%p}&=& \underbrace{1 \cdot 2 \cdot 3 \cdot \ldots \cdot (p-2) \cdot (p-1) \cdot 1}_{1\text{st}} \cdot \underbrace{1 \cdot 2 \cdot 3 \cdot \ldots \cdot (p-2) \cdot (p-1) \cdot 2}_{2\text{nd}} \cdot \ldots \\ & & \cdot \underbrace{1 \cdot 2 \cdot 3 \cdot \ldots \cdot (p-2) \cdot (p-1) \cdot 1}_{p\text{th}} \cdot \ldots \cdot \quad \underbrace{1 \cdot 2 \cdot \cdot \ldots \cdot (n \bmod p)}_{\text{tail}} \pmod{p}. \end{eqnarray}$$

The general part of the blocks it is easy to count — it's just $(p-1)!\ \mathrm{mod}\ p$ that you can calculate programmatically or via Wilson theorem, according to which $(p-1)! \bmod p = p-1$. To multiply these common parts of all blocks, we can raise the value to the higher power modulo $p$, which can be done in $O(\log n)$ operations using Binary Exponentiation; however, you may notice that the result will always be either $1$ or $p-1$, depending on the parity of the index. The value of the last partial block can be calculated separately in $O(p)$. Leaving only the last elements of the blocks, we can examine that:

$$n!_{\%p} = \underbrace{ \ldots \cdot 1 } \cdot \underbrace{ \ldots \cdot 2} \cdot \ldots \cdot \underbrace{ \ldots \cdot (p-1)} \cdot \underbrace{ \ldots \cdot 1 } \cdot \underbrace{ \ldots \cdot 1} \cdot \underbrace{ \ldots \cdot 2} \cdots$$

And again, by removing the blocks that we already computed, we receive a "modified" factorial but with smaller dimension ($\lfloor n / p \rfloor$ blocks remain). Thus, in the calculation of "modified" the factorial $n!_{\%p}$ we did $O(p)$ operations and are left with the calculation of $(n/p)!_{\%p}$. Revealing this recursive dependence, we obtain that the recursion depth is $O(\log_p n)$, the total asymptotic behavior of the algorithm is thus $O(p \log_p n)$.


We don't need recursion because this is a case of tail recursion and thus can be easily implemented using iteration.

int factmod(int n, int p) {
    int res = 1;
    while (n > 1) {
        res = (res * ((n/p) % 2 ?  p-1 : 1)) % p;
        for (int i = 2; i <= n%p; ++i)
            res = (res * i) % p;
        n /= p;
    return res % p;

This implementation works in $O(p \log_p n)$.