Recursion

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# Recursion - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

Recursion. Definitions I. A recursive definition is a definition in which the thing being defined occurs as part of its own definition Example: An atom is a name or a number A list consists of: An open parenthesis, "(" Zero or more atoms or lists, and A close parenthesis, ")".

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## PowerPoint Slideshow about 'Recursion' - arella

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### Recursion

Definitions I
• A recursive definition is a definition in which the thing being defined occurs as part of its own definition
• Example:
• An atom is a name or a number
• A list consists of:
• An open parenthesis, "("
• Zero or more atoms or lists, and
• A close parenthesis, ")"
Definitions II
• Indirect recursion is when a thing is defined in terms of other things, but those other things are defined in terms of the first thing
• Example: A list is:
• An open parenthesis,
• Zero or more S-expressions, and
• A close parenthesis
• An S-expression is an atom or a list
The mathematical definition of factorial is:

We can define this in Java as:

long factorial(long n) { if (n <= 1) return 1; else return n * factorial(n – 1);}

This is a recursive function because it calls itself

Recursive functions are completely legal in Java

1, if n <= 1n * factorial(n-1) otherwise

factorial(n) is

Recursive functions...er, methods

Extra work to convert the result of the recursive call into the result of this call

Recursive case: recurs with a simpler parameter

Anatomy of a recursion

Base case: does some work without making a recursive call

long factorial(long n) { if (n <= 1) return 1; else return n * factorial(n – 1);}

Infinite recursion
• The following is the recursive equivalent of an infinite loop:
• While this is obviously foolish, infinite recursions can happen by accident in more complex methods
Another problem
• Consider the following code fragment:
• static int n = 20;...int factorial() { if (n <= 1) return 1; else { n = n – 1; return (n + 1) * factorial(); }}
• Does this work?
• Changing a non-local variable makes the program much more difficult to understand
Why recursion?
• For something like the factorial function (which is sort of the “Hello world” of recursion), it’s faster and just as simple to use a loop
• For working with inherently recursive data, such as arithmetic expressions, recursion is much simpler
• Example: To evaluate the expression (2 + 3) * (4 + 5), you must first evaluate the expressions (2 + 3) and (4 + 5)
• Recall the definition of a list:
• A list consists of:
• An open parenthesis, "("
• Zero or more atoms or lists, and
• A close parenthesis, ")"
• Lists are also inherently recursive
Understanding recursion
• The usual way to teach recursion is to “trace through” a recursion, seeing what it does at each level
• This may be a good way to understand how recursion works...
• ...but it's a terrible way to try to use recursion
• There is a better way
Base cases and recursive cases
• Every valid recursive definition consists of two parts:
• One or more base cases, where you compute the answer directly, without recursion
• One or more recursive cases, where you do part of the work, and recur with a simpler problem
Information hiding
• int spread (int[ ] array) { int max, min; Arrays.sort(array); min = array[0]; max = array[array.length - 1]; return max - min;}
• Can you understand this function without looking at sort?
Stepping through called functions
• Functions should do something simple and understandable
• When you try to understand a function, you should not have to step through the code of the functions that it calls
• When you try to understand a recursive function, you should not have to step through the code of the functions it calls
• It's hard enough to understand one level of one function at a time
• It's almost impossible to keep track of many levels of the same function all at once
• But you can understand one level of one function at a time...
• ...and that's all you need to understand in order to use recursion well
The four rules
• Do the base cases first
• Recur only with a simpler case
• Don't modify non-local variables*
• Don't look down

* Remember, parameters count as local variables

Do the base cases first
• Every recursive function must have some things it can do without recursion
• These are the simple, or base, cases
• Test for these cases, and do them first
• This is just writing ordinary, nonrecursive code
Recur only with a simpler case
• If the problem isn't simple enough to be a base case, break it into two parts:
• A simpler problem of the same kind (for example, a smaller number, or a shorter list)
• Extra work not solved by the simpler problem
• Combine the results of the recursion and the extra work into a complete solution
• “Simpler” means “more like a base case”
Example 1: member(pseudocode)
• Is value X a member of list L?
• boolean member(X, L) {
• if (L is the empty list) return false; // this is a base case
• if (X equals the first element in L) return true; // another base case
• return member(X, L minus the first element);// simpler because more like empty list}
Example 2: double
• Double every element of a list of numbers
• function double(L) {
• if (L is the empty list) return the empty list; // base case
• else { L2 = double (L - first element); // recur
• D = 2 * first element in L; // extra work
• return (list made by adding D to L2); // combine }}
It's OK to modify local variables
• A function has its own copy of
• local variables
• parameters passed by value (which are effectively local variables)
• Each level of a recursive function has its own copy of these variables and parameters
• Changing them at one level does not change them at other levels
• One level can't interfere with another level
• There is (typically) only one copy of a given object
• If a parameter is passed by reference, there is only one copy of it
• If such a variable is changed by a recursive function, it's changed at all levels
• The various levels interfere with one another
• This can get very confusing
• Don't let this happen to you!
Don't look down
• Wherever there is a recursive call, assume that it works correctly
• If you can get this level correct, you will automatically get all levels correct
• You really can't understand more than one level at a time, so don’t even try
member again
• boolean member(X, L) {
• if (L is the empty list) return false;
• This says: if list L is empty, then X isn’t an element of L
• Is this a true statement?
• if (X equals the first element in L) return true;
• This says: if X = the first element in L, then it’s in L
• Is this a true statement?
• return member(X, L - first element);
• This says: if X isn’t the first element of L, then X is in L if and only if X is in the tail of L
• Is this a true statement?
• Did we cover all possible cases?
• Did we recur only with simpler cases?
• Did we change any non-local variables?
• We’re done!
Reprise
• Do the base cases first
• Recur only with a simpler case
• Don't modify nonlocal variables
• Don't look down