The algorithm is easy to implement and is built upon an the greatest common divisor gcd (which can be calculated by the algorithm of Euclide) and a polynomial P(x) of degree >1. Most common polynomial to use is P(x)=x²+1. Let Pn(x)=P(x) mod n, that is the rest when P(x) is divided by n. Pn is a function Pn:ℕ→ℤn, where ℤn={0,1,2,...,n-1}. The function Pn will act like a simple pseudo random generator in the algorithm.

Define Xi+1=Pn(Xi). Since ℤn is a finite set there are smallest i,j such that Xi=Xi+j, when the sequence start to repeat itself. Mostly the sequence Xi isn't cyclic from the start Xo, but later on at some Xi. There is at trick to find out if Xi is in the loop or not. It's like sending away a turtle and a hare on the same track at the same time. When the hare again is comming besides the turtle they must both be in the loop.

Therefore, define a second sequence Yi+1=Pn(Pn(Yi)), where Xo=Yo. When Yi=Xi, i>0, Xi and Yi are in the cycle. But for Pollard rho the real important sequences are the uncalculated sequences Vi+1=Pm(Vi) and Wi+1=Pm(Pm(Wi)) where Vo=Wo=Xo and m|n (which aren't calculated since we don't know any m|n yet). When Wi=Vi, i>0, then m|Xi-Yi and gcd(Xi-Yi,n)=m. If m=1 the result is neglected and the process go on with Xi+1 and Yi+1.

An example with P(x)=x²+1 that is factorized while continuing after failure for Xo=2 is n=4294952621. An example that can't be factorized after failure with Xo=2 but with Xo=3 is n=4294939069.

Increasing Xo after termination when gcd(Xi-Yi,n)=n will always find a factor of n, because if m is a non trivial factor of n, then Xo=m immediately gives m as a factor. That is, for P(x)=x²+1.