2013 April 12,

Carleton College, Spring 2013

Prof. Joshua R. Davis, , CMC 325, x4473

In this assignment, you will implement recursion using iteration on a stack. Specifically, you will show that any singly or doubly recursive function can be implemented using an iterative function that simulates the recursive calls on a stack. This idea is fundamental to computer science, so you may have written code like this in a previous course. In this course, the purpose of the exercise is to develop a relationship between (some) recursive functions and push-down automata (which we're studying next).

Hand in your four program files in your `handin`

folder on the `COURSES`

file server.

Here is a classic recursive function:

def factorial(n): if n == 0: return 1 else: return n * factorial(n - 1)

This function is *singly recursive*, meaning that it makes one recursive call to itself. All singly recursive functions follow this basic format:

- Test whether the input is a base case.
- If the input is a base case, then return a special result.
- If the input is not a base case:
- Do some work, which I call "pre-processing".
- Recursively call the function on the result of the pre-processing.
- Do some more work, which I call "post-processing". It may depend on any quantity present in the function: the input, the pre-processing result, and/or the recursive result.
- Return the result of the post-processing.

In other words, all singly recursive functions can be implemented using the following meta-function. This meta-function uses four helper functions: `criterion`

, `base`

, `pre`

, and `post`

. The specific behavior of the meta-function depends on how the helper functions are defined.

def recursive(x): if criterion(x): return base(x) else: prex = pre(x) recx = recursive(prex) return post(x, prex, recx)

A. What should the four helper functions be, so that the meta-function `recursive`

implements the factorial? Specifically: Start a new Python file `factorial.py`

. Paste the meta-function into the file, without altering it. In the file, define the four helper functions. At the end of the file, after all of the function definitions, add a "demo section", where you demonstrate that the meta-function computes factorials.

The Euclidean algorithm, shown below, computes the greatest common divisor of two non-negative integers *a* and *b* that are not both zero. It is singly recursive. The algorithm naturally takes two inputs, not one; however, we can treat it as taking one input, if that input is a pair.

def euclidean(ab): if ab[0] == 0: return ab[1] elif ab[1] == 0: return ab[0] else: return euclidean([ab[1], ab[0] % ab[1]])

B. What should the four helper functions be, so that the meta-function `recursive`

implements the Euclidean algorithm? Specifically: Start a new Python file `euclidean.py`

. As in the previous exercise, paste the meta-function, define the helper functions, and add a demo section. (By the way, you do not need to understand the Euclidean algorithm, to complete this exercise. You just need to recognize patterns in code.)

Recall from CS 201 that a stack is a last-in-first-out data structure that supports these four operations:

- creation: Makes a new, empty stack.
`isEmpty()`

: Returns`True`

or`False`

, indicating whether the stack is empty.`push(x)`

: Adds the object`x`

to the top of the stack, and returns nothing.`pop()`

: Removes the top item from the top of the stack, and returns it. If the stack is empty, then the behavior is undefined.

In this next exercise, you will need a stack. If you like, you can implement your own stack class. Alternatively, as long as you promise not to tell your CS 201 professor, you can simply use a Python list, with these four code snippets standing in for the official stack operations:

`mystack = []`

`len(mystack) == 0`

`mystack.append(x)`

`x = mystack.pop()`

C. Write a meta-function `iterative`

, that performs identically to the meta-function `recursive`

, but which doesn't use any recursion. Instead, your `iterative`

meta-function should use iteration and a stack. The start of my solution is shown below. Paste your `iterative`

meta-function into both `factorial.py`

and `euclidean.py`

, and augment their demo sections to demonstrate that your helper functions work with `iterative`

exactly as they work with `recursive`

. (By the way, my solution is 15 lines, excluding comments.)

def iterative(x): stack = [] stack.append([x]) while not len(stack) == 0:

*Tail recursion* is a special kind of single recursion, in which the post-processing function `post`

does no work, but simply returns the result of the recursive call. The function `euclidean`

shown above is in tail-recursive form.

D. **Optional**. Write a meta-function `iterativeTail`

. It does not need to handle non-tail-recursive functions. For tail-recursive functions, it should perform identically to `recursive`

and `iterative`

. Like `iterative`

it should use no recursion. In comparison to `iterative`

, it should be highly optimized. Paste your meta-function into `euclidean.py`

and augment the demo section to demonstrate that it works. (By the way, my solution is 4 lines, excluding comments.)

Are we having fun yet? Yes, but not enough fun. In addition to singly recursive functions, there are also *doubly recursive* functions, which call themselves twice. Here are two classic examples, that compute the Fibonacci numbers and the combinatorial coefficients "*n* choose *k*".

def fibonacci(n): if n == 0: return 0 elif n == 1: return 1 else: return fibonacci(n - 1) + fibonacci(n - 2)

def choose(nk): if nk[0] == 0 or nk[1] == 0 or nk[0] == nk[1]: return 1 else: return choose([nk[0] - 1, nk[1]]) + choose([nk[0] - 1, nk[1] - 1])

Here is a meta-function that implements double recursion using double recursion. There is now a fifth helper function, `mid`

, because some work may need to be done between the two recursive calls.

def recursive2(x): if criterion(x): return base(x) else: prex = pre(x) recx = recursive2(prex) midx = mid(x, prex, recx) recx2 = recursive2(midx) return post(x, prex, recx, midx, recx2)

E. What should the five helper functions be, so that the meta-function `recursive2`

computes Fibonacci numbers? Specifically: Start a new Python file `fibonacci.py`

, paste the meta-function, define the five helper functions, and add a demo section.

F. What should the five helper functions be, so that the meta-function `recursive2`

computes the combinatorial coefficients? Specifically: Start a new Python file `choose.py`

, paste the meta-function, define the five helper functions, and add a demo section.

G. **Optional**. Write a meta-function `iterative2`

, that performs identically to the meta-function `recursive2`

, but which doesn't use any recursion. Instead, your `iterative2`

meta-function should use iteration and a stack. Paste your `iterative2`

meta-function into both `fibonacci.py`

and `choose.py`

, and augment their demo sections to demonstrate that your helper functions work with `iterative2`

exactly as they work with `recursive2`

. (By the way, my solution is 19 lines, excluding comments.)

There are also triply recursive functions, quadruply recursive functions, and so forth. There are also problems that lend themselves to recursive solutions where the number of recursive calls varies from one call to the next. All of these variations on recursion can be implemented using iteration on a single stack. As long as the work done in the helper functions is not too complicated, these variations on recursion can be implemented on a push-down automaton.