Chapter Five. Recursion and Trees

The concept of recursion is fundamental in mathematics and computer science. The simple definition is that a recursive program in a programming language is one that calls itself (just as a recursive function in mathematics is one that is defined in terms of itself). A recursive program cannot call itself always, or it would never stop (just as a recursive function cannot be defined in terms of itself always, or the definition would be circular); so a second essential ingredient is that there must be a termination condition when the program can cease to call itself (and when the mathematical function is not defined in terms of itself). All practical computations can be couched in a recursive framework.

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