What does the Spanning tree algorithem do? What are the modes that it can be in?

The STP algorithm is responsible for identifying active redundant links in the network and blocking one of these links, thus preventing possible network loops.
There are four modes of Spanning tree
-PVST+
-RSTP
-Rapid-PVST+
-MSTP

Cisco Proprietary

Per-VLAN Spanning Tree Protocol (PVST) – Maintains a spanning-tree instance for each VLAN configured in the network. It uses the Cisco proprietary ISL trunking protocol that allows a VLAN trunk to be forwarding for some VLANs while blocking for other VLANs. Because PVST treats each VLAN as a separate network, it can load balance traffic at Layer 2 by forwarding some VLANs on one trunk and other VLANs on another trunk without causing a loop. For PVST, Cisco developed a number of proprietary extensions to the original IEEE 802.1D STP, such as BackboneFast, UplinkFast, and PortFast.

Per-VLAN Spanning Tree Protocol Plus (PVST+) – Cisco developed PVST+ to provide support for IEEE 802.1Q trunking. PVST+ provides the same functionality as PVST, including the Cisco proprietary STP extensions. PVST+ is not supported on non-Cisco devices. PVST+ includes the PortFast enhancement called BPDU guard, and root guard.

Rapid Per-VLAN Spanning Tree Protocol (rapid PVST+) – Based on the IEEE 802.1w standard and has a faster convergence than STP (standard 802.1D). Rapid PVST+ includes Cisco-proprietary extensions such as BackboneFast, UplinkFast, and PortFast.

IEEE Standards

Rapid Spanning Tree Protocol (RSTP) – First introduced in 1982 as an evolution of STP (802.1D standard). It provides faster spanning-tree convergence after a topology change. RSTP implements the Cisco-proprietary STP extensions, BackboneFast, UplinkFast, and PortFast, into the public standard. As of 2004, the IEEE has incorporated RSTP into 802.1D, identifying the specification as IEEE 802.1D-2004. So when you hear STP, think RSTP.

Multiple STP (MSTP) – Enables multiple VLANs to be mapped to the same spanning-tree instance, reducing the number of instances needed to support a large number of VLANs. MSTP was inspired by the Cisco-proprietary Multiple Instances STP (MISTP) and is an evolution of STP and RSTP. It was introduced in IEEE 802.1s as amendment to 802.1Q, 1998 edition. Standard IEEE 802.1Q-2003 now includes MSTP. MSTP provides for multiple forwarding paths for data traffic and enables load balancing.