Problem with recursion? (was [plt-scheme] Re: Novice needs help writing function )

From: Carl Eastlund (cce at
Date: Fri Jan 4 00:48:00 EST 2008

On Jan 4, 2008 12:11 AM, Grant Rettke <grettke at> wrote:
> I recently heard that a particular teacher quit trying to teach
> recursion because "it is too hard for students to understand".
> Is there an epidemic of sorts that students don't understand recursion?
> What are the challenges to understanding recursion?

My guess?  Teachers that don't understand recursion are probably the
biggest obstacle to students learning recursion.  That, and curricula
based in imperative, iterative programming.  Get students hopelessly
mired in spaghetti code based on "bang this ref cell here" and "jump
to that label there", and then try to explain recursion in terms of
that, and yeah, it's gonna look tricky.

I'll admit that I haven't seen an introductory course other than How
To Design Programs in years, though.  So I don't have my finger on the
pulse of all these classrooms having problems.

Carl Eastlund

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