Recursion And Iteration In Python Programming – Analytics India Magazine

recursion iteration

A pc program consists of line-by-line directions. The laptop performs these directions line-by-line. However, some directions could also be repetitive with a standard sample. Recursion or iteration helps one to jot down just a few traces of codes to carry out such repetitive duties. Suppose a Python listing with five-string components. We want to print the weather one in a line. This operation wants 5 traces of codes.

 flowers = ['lily', 'tulip', 'rose', 'lavender', 'dandelion'] 


It could be noticed that the 5 traces of codes observe the identical sample. The solely distinction in every line is the index of the listing components. What if this listing incorporates 100 or 1000 components? Coding will turn out to be a tedious activity. These sorts of issues are resolved by way of both iteration or recursion. Here, the iterative type of the above codes is as follows.

 for flower in flowers:



These two traces are enough to attain the duty even when the listing incorporates 1,000,000 components!

Recursion in Python

Recursion is a purposeful strategy of breaking down an issue right into a set of easy subproblems with an an identical sample and fixing them by calling one subproblem inside one other in sequential order. Recursion is executed by defining a perform that may clear up one subproblem at a time. Somewhere inside that perform, it calls itself however fixing one other subproblem. Thus, the decision to itself continues till some limiting standards is met. 

The first name to a recursive perform from the primary program will probably be returned solely after all of the subcalls are completed. Hence, Python shops the outcomes of all subproblems in short-term reminiscence, executes some arithmetic operations (if wanted), and releases the reminiscence after the top of recursion.

Iteration in Python

Iterations are carried out by way of ‘for’ and ‘while’ loops. Iterations execute a set of directions repeatedly till some limiting standards is met. In distinction to recursion, iteration doesn’t require short-term reminiscence to maintain on the outcomes of every iteration. Rather, programmers ought to outline a variable (a quantity, or listing, or string, or any mutable knowledge sort) effectively earlier than the beginning of iterative calls to gather the outcomes (if there are such arithmetic outcomes) throughout every iteration. 

Further, an iterative activity could be completed by both a ‘for’ loop or a ‘while’ loop. A ‘for’ loop iterates over a sequence (akin to an inventory, string, tuple and vary). It terminates the loop when there isn’t a aspect left within the sequence. It routinely traverses by way of the successive components. But a ‘while’ loop wants initialization of an iterator and handbook incrementation of the identical. A ‘while’ loop is executed till an iterator-based situation is happy.

Recursion vs Iteration

Since Python doesn’t retailer something about earlier iteration steps, iteration is sort of quicker and memory-efficient than recursion. In apply, nearly all iterations could be carried out by recursions and vice-versa. Some duties could be executed by recursion less complicated than iteration resulting from repeatedly calling the identical perform. On the opposite hand, some duties could be executed by iteration in a sublime approach reasonably than recursion. In phrases of time complexity and reminiscence constraints, iteration is most well-liked over recursion. Both recursion and ‘while’ loops in iteration might outcome within the harmful infinite calls scenario. If the limiting standards should not met, some time loop or a recursive perform won’t ever converge and result in a break in program execution. 

Since recursion is executed by defining a perform, this perform could be referred to as each time required anyplace in this system. Iterative codes should be constructed on the place requirement. Nevertheless, an iterative code set could be generalized by declaring inside a typical Python perform (not a recursive perform).

The following examples will give a greater understanding of recursive and iterative programming approaches.

Factorial of an Integer

Calculating factorial is a well-liked use case to know iteration and recursion. For occasion, we want to calculate the factorial of 10. It could be decided as 1*2*3*4*5*6*7*8*9*10 = 3628800. This could be considered as 10 subproblems of multiplying an incrementing integer to a last outcome.

 # utilizing a for loop
 n = 10
 outcome = 1
 for i in vary(1,n+1):
   outcome *= i


A spread perform is applied in a ‘for’ loop because it requires a sequence to iterate over. Range perform provides values iteratively from 1 by way of 10, separately. It stops iteration when the vary perform stops supplying values(i.e., at 10).

 # utilizing some time loop
 n = 10
 outcome = 1
 i = 1
 whereas i <= n:
   outcome *= i
   i += 1


In a ‘while’ loop, an iterator i is launched and incremented by way of each loop. While loop stops iterating when the worth of i exceeds the integer 10.

 # utilizing recursion
 def Factorial(n):
   # declare a base case (a limiting standards)
   if n == 1:
     return 1
   # proceed with common case
     return n * Factorial(n-1)


A recursive perform, named Factorial(), is outlined with the limiting standards of n=1. It first makes an attempt to seek out the factorial of 10. Factorial(10) is damaged down into 10 * Factorial(9). Further, Factorial(9) is damaged down into 9 * Factorial(8), and so forth. When Factorial(1) is named, it stops the recursion. 

recursion of factorial
A couple of steps within the recursive model of Factorial drawback. 

Factorial(10) awaits for the worth of Factorial(9). Factorial(9) awaits for the worth of Factorial(8), and so forth. Thus as soon as the limiting standards (right here, n=1) is reached, it begins returning the values.

Reverse a String

A string or a sequence could be reversed by way of iteration or recursion. Here, we outline a perform that takes a string and returns its reversed type by way of an iterative strategy. This perform could be referred to as any variety of occasions with completely different strings every time. 

 def Reverse_iter(s):
   rev = ''
   for ok in s:
     rev = ok + rev
   return rev


reverse string - iteration

The identical activity is carried out by way of a recursive strategy as follows.

 def Reverse_rec(s):
   if not s:
     return ''
     return Reverse_rec(s[1:]) + s[0]


See Also

reverse string - recursion

Build a Triangle with Numbers

Build a triangle of numbers by printing 1 on the primary line, 1 thousand on the second line, 1 million on the third line and so forth, till a prescribed variety of traces. After setting up the prolonged line, lower the variety of digits in descending order. The whole variety of traces printed could be equal to 2n+1, the place n is the enter quantity.

 # Iterative type
 n = 8
 # stand up
 for i in vary(n):
 # fall down
 for i in vary(n, -1, -1):


build triangle - iteration

In the above development, the primary loop printed the ascending sequence, and the second loop printed the descending sequence. The identical could be applied with a recursive perform as follows.

 # recursive type
 def Triangle(n, i=0):
   if n==0:
     return None
   if i<n:
     # increase up
     Triangle(n, i+1)
     # fall down
     Triangle(n-1, i-1)


build triangle - recursion

Though the identical outcomes are obtained by way of each iterative and recursive approaches, the recursive strategy takes a tricky path whereas the iterative strategy follows an easy path. This is the sort of drawback during which the recursive strategy is very discouraged. However, understanding recursion with this type of easy drawback might assist one perceive superior algorithms that rely closely on recursions, akin to backtracking and dynamic programming.


Quicksort is a well-known algorithm that types the given listing or array in place. Actually, Python’s type() methodology follows this algorithm for sorting. Merge type, and Insertion type are different well-known sorting algorithms. Quicksort employs each recursive and iterative approaches to carry out the sorting operation rapidly and successfully. 

Quicksort initially selects the primary aspect of the array as its pivot aspect. It compares the pivot aspect with the successive components iteratively and makes a shift if the suitable aspect is larger than the left one. Thus, on the finish of the iteration, the pivot aspect has smaller components on its left and bigger components on the suitable. However, each the left aspect components and proper aspect components stay unsorted. The array is now damaged into two components based mostly on the pivot aspect. The left array and proper array are sorted recursively utilizing the Quicksort() perform.

 def Quicksort(a, l, r):
   # think about the left most as pivot aspect
   present = l+1
   # base case (as limiting standards)
   if r <= present:
     return None
   for i in vary(l+1, r):
     # examine pivot aspect and shift present's postion
     if a[l] >= a[i]:
       a[i], a[current] = a[current], a[i]
       present += 1
   # change pivot aspect and current-but-one aspect
   a[l], a[current-1] = a[current-1], a[l]
   # carry out Quicksort earlier than present aspect
   Quicksort(a, l, current-1)
   # carry out Quicksort after present aspect
   Quicksort(a, present, r) 
   return None 

Check the way it works.

 a = [5,6,4,12,9,2,1,7,6,3]
 print('Before sorting...')
 Quicksort(a, 0, len(a))
 print('nAfter sorting...')


Quicksort - recursion and iteration

Without recursion, this Quicksort implementation will probably be a laborious one.

The Google Colab notebook with the above code implementation.

Wrapping Up

In this text, now we have mentioned the iterative and recursive approaches of Python programming with just a few examples. We have mentioned the constraints and limitations of each approaches. Finally, now we have mentioned the well-known Quicksort algorithm that includes each the iterative and recursive paradigms to carry out array sorting. Interested readers can consult with different sorting algorithms, heap, binary search, dynamic programming and backtracking algorithms to find out how recursions and iterations are successfully chosen for a specific activity.

References and Further Reading

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