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Stack diagrams for recursive functions

20 January, 2016 - 15:50

In Stack diagrams , we used a stack diagram to represent the state of a program during a function call. The same kind of diagram can help interpret a recursive function.

Every time a function gets called, Python creates a new function frame, which contains the function’s local variables and parameters. For a recursive function, there might be more than one frame on the stack at the same time.

Figure 5.1 shows a stack diagram for countdown called with n=3.

As usual, the top of the stack is the frame for __main__ . It is empty because we did not create any variables in __main__ or pass any arguments to it.

The four countdown frames have different values for the parameter n. The bottom of the stack, where n=0, is called the base case. It does not make a recursive call, so there are no more frames.

Exercise 5.1.Draw a stack diagram for print_ncalled withs = 'Hello' and n=2.

Exercise 5.2.Write a function called do n that takes a function object and a number, n, as arguments, and that calls the given function n times.

Figure 5.1 Stack diagram