CS 3110 Lecture 20
Recursion trees and master method for
recurrence relations
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Recursion trees
A
recursion tree
is useful for visualizing what happens when a recurrence is iterated. It diagrams the tree of
recursive calls, and the amount of work done at each call.
For instance consider the recurrence
T(n)=2T(n/2) + n
2
.
The recursion tree for this recurrence is of the following form:

n
2

/
\

(n/2)
2
(n/2)
2
height=

/
\
/
\
lg n

(n/4)
2
(n/4)
2
(n/4)
2
(n/4)
2

/
\
/
\
/
\
/
\

.

.

.
Generally it is straightforward to sum across each row of the tree, to obtain the total work done at a given
level:

n
2
n
2

/
\

(n/2)
2
(n/2)
2
(1/2)n
2
height=

/
\
/
\
lg n

(n/4)
2
(n/4)
2
(n/4)
2
(n/4)
2
(1/4)n
2

/
\
/
\
/
\
/
\

.

.

.
This is a geometric series, and thus in the limit the sum is
O(n
2
)
. In other words the depth of the tree in this
case does not really matter, the amount of work at each level is decreasing so quickly that the total is only a
constant factor more than the root.
Recursion trees can be useful for gaining intuition into the closed form of a recurrence, but are not a proof
(and in fact it is easy to get the wrong answer with a recursion tree, as is the case with any method that
includes ''.
..'' kinds of reasoning). As we saw last time, a good way of establishing a closed form for a
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 '07
 GIAMBATTISTA,A
 Recursion, LG, Recurrence relation, Asymptotic analysis, Master Theorem, recurrence

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