4.9. Stack Diagrams for Recursive Functions

In the previous chapter we used a stack diagram to represent the state of a program during a function call. The same kind of diagram can make it easier to interpret a recursive function.

Remember that every time a function gets called it creates a new instance that contains the function’s local variables and parameters.

This figure shows a stack diagram for countdown, called with n = 3:


There is one instance of main and four instances of countdown, each with a different value for the parameter n. The bottom of the stack, countdown with n = 0 is the base case. It does not make a recursive call, so there are no more instances of countdown.

The instance of main is empty because main does not have any parameters or local variables. As an exercise, draw a stack diagram for nLines, invoked with the parameter n = 4.

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