ELI5: Explain Like I'm 5

p versus np problem

The p versus np problem is a big math puzzle. It is a way of thinking about some types of math problems that are very hard to solve.

The p stands for polynomial time, which means the time it takes to find the answer to the math problem is proportional to how long the problem is. For example, if the problem is twice as long, then it would take twice as much time to figure out the answer.

The np stands for non-deterministic polynomial time, which means that the answer to the problem can be found in a reasonable amount of time, but it is difficult to say how long exactly.

The puzzle is to figure out if there are any math problems that can only be solved in polynomial time, or if there are problems that can only be solved in non-deterministic polynomial time. If the answer is yes to either of these, then it would be a big breakthrough in math.