Conceptual structures for recursion

  • C T Peter Burton
Understanding LOLITA
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 1022)


Consideration will be given to the perplexity students experience with recursive function definitions. Certain conceptual structures will be suggested, which might provide a path through the thicket. In particular, emphasis will be placed on decisions that a programmer makes during the course of designing a recursive definition. By drawing attention to these decisions — by classifying them and making them explicit — it is possible to delineate the kind of “space” within which creativity operates. To vivify this, a rudimentary taxonomy of recursive function definitions will be sketched here. It will be illustrated in a particular application area, involving a family of simple string-processing tasks. This will highlight two different kinds of structure: (i) classification of different tasks within the family, (ii) classification of different approaches to a single task. Some of the points to be raised are not specific to recursion; accordingly, connections will be drawn here and there with certain more general pedagogical themes promulgated by Peter Landin in recent years.


Auxiliary Function Conceptual Structure Function Definition Recursive Call Functional Programming 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • C T Peter Burton
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept. of Computer Science, Queen Mary and Westfield CollegeUniversity of LondonLondonUK

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