A recursive sequence is a sequence where one or more terms are given and each following term is defined as a function of the previous terms. For example, consider the following rule for generating a recursive sequence: starting with $3,$ generate each term by doubling the previous term and adding $1.$ The terms of this sequence are as follows:
One way to implement recursive sequences in code is to store all terms in an array. For example, a function that returns the first $n$ terms of the recursive sequence “starting with $3,$ generate each term by doubling the previous term and adding $1$” could be implemented as follows:
def calc_first_n_terms(n): terms =  while len(terms) < n: prev_term = terms[-1] next_term = 2 * prev_term + 1 terms.append(next_term) return terms
If all we want is the $n$th term, then it can sometimes be more convenient to make the implementation itself recursive:
def calc_nth_term(n): if n == 1: return 3 else: prev_term = calc_nth_term(n-1) return 2 * prev_term + 1
To understand how the function above works, first notice that
calc_nth_term(1) will return $3.$ This is called the base case. If a different input is passed, then the function will keep calling itself in a lower input until it reaches the base case.
calc_nth_term(4) |--> prev_term = calc_nth_term(3) |--> prev_term = calc_nth_term(2) |--> prev_term = calc_nth_term(1) |--> return 3 |<-- |<-- return 2 * 3 + 1 = 7 |<-- return 2 * 7 + 1 = 15 |<-- return 2 * 15 + 1 = 31 Output: 31
Several different recursive sequences are described below. For each sequence, write a function to generate an array containing first $n$ terms, and then write a separate recursive function to generate the $n$th term. Be sure to work these sequences out by hand and write tests.
- Starting with $5,$ generate each term by multiplying the previous term by $3$ and subtracting $4.$
- Starting with $25,$ generate each term by taking half of the previous term if it's even, or multiplying by $3$ and adding $1$ if it's odd. (This is an instance of a Collatz sequence.)
- Starting with $0,1,$ generate each term by adding the previous two terms. (This is the famous Fibonacci sequence.)
- Starting with terms $2,-3,$ generate each term by adding the product of the previous two terms.