R Recursive Function

In this you will learn to create a recursive function in R programming with the help of examples.

A function that calls itself is called a recursive function and this technique is known as recursion.

This special programming technique can be used to solve problems by breaking them into smaller and simpler sub-problems.

Example of Recursion

An example can help clarify the concept of recursion. Let us take the example of finding the factorial of a number.

Factorial of a positive integer number is defined as the product of all the integers from 1 to that number. For example, the factorial of 5 (denoted as 5!) will be:

5! = 1*2*3*4*5 = 120

This problem of finding factorial of 5 can be broken down into a sub-problem of multiplying the factorial of 4 with 5.

5! = 5*4!

Or more generally,

n! = n*(n-1)!

Now we can continue this until we reach 0! which is 1.

The implementation of this is provided below.

Example: Recursive Function in R

recursive.factorial <- function(x) {
  if (x == 0)
    return(x * recursive.factorial(x-1))

# factorial of 0
# factorial of 5
# factorial of 7


[1] 1
[1] 120
[1] 5040

Here, we have a function which will call itself. Something like recursive.factorial(x) will turn into x * recursive.factorial(x) until x becomes equal to 0.

When x becomes 0, we return 1 since the factorial of 0 is 1. This is the terminating condition and is very important.

Without this the recursion will not end and continue indefinitely.

Use of Recursion

The use of recursion, often, makes code shorter and looks clean.

However, it is sometimes hard to follow through the code logic. It might be hard to think of a problem in a recursive way.

Recursive functions are also memory intensive since it can result in a lot of nested function calls. This must be kept in mind when using it for solving big problems.

Check out these examples to learn more:

Did you find this article helpful?