Introducing Students to Recursion: A Multi-facet and Multi-tool Approach

  • Maciej M. Syslo
  • Anna Beata Kwiatkowska
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 8730)


In this paper we discuss a number of results and advices coming from our observations and didactical experience gathered when teaching about recursion in different contexts and on various education level (K-12 and tertiary). Knowing the difficulty in introducing, explaining and using recursion, we differentiate our approach, tools, and methods. Recursion can be introduced as a ‘real-life topic’ – see Section 2, and then software for visualization of recursive computations (Section 3) can be very helpful to overcome some difficulties by novices. Section 4 is on developing recursive thinking – we use two popular topics – generating Fibonacci number and printing digits of a number – to explain how to introduce students to different aspects of recursion. Section 5 is addressed to complexity of recursive computations – we discuss how to use recursion in a most effective way.

We do not teach recursion as a separate topic or subject, it is rather a method and a tool, the way of thinking, used in various situations. It is redundant in some cases (Section 5.1), can be used as an approach alternative to iteration (Sections 2 and 4.2), but our main focus is on its properties as a concept which has a computational power in designing solutions of problems and running such solutions on a computer.


recursion iteration induction algorithm visualization Fibonacci numbers Horner’s rule printing digits of a number fast exponentiation divide and conquer 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maciej M. Syslo
    • 1
    • 2
  • Anna Beata Kwiatkowska
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Computer ScienceUniversity of WroclawWroclawPoland
  2. 2.Faculty of Mathematics and InformaticsNicolaus Copernicus UniversityTorunPoland

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