HOW is `multiply(arr, n) == multiply (arr, n - 1) * arr[n - 1]`?

Tell us what’s happening:
The code is from the note on Replace Loops using Recursion. I really don’t understand how multiply(arr, n) == multiply (arr, n - 1) * arr[n - 1]

  **Your code so far**

function multiply(arr, n) {
  if (n <= 0) {
    return 1;
  } else {
    return multiply(arr, n - 1) * arr[n - 1]; //I don't understand what's happening here
//the following were not part of the note
var  myArray = [2,3,4,5];
var myAns = multiply(myArray,3);
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Challenge: Replace Loops using Recursion

Link to the challenge:

Have you tried going step-by-step through it, with considering what exactly each variable is at that time?

Hi Jedidiah,

I agree, the recursion is hard to fully grasp without understanding the Mathematical meanings behind it. In the simplest terms, think of the factorial number concept; where you multiply the number with the next following decremented number.

For example 4! is 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 or in a more generic form n! = n x (n-1) x (n-2) … x 1. You will always end with 1 at the end of the loop ( notice the if conditional statement n<=0 that set the base).

We know that 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 is the same as 4 x (4-1)X(3-1) x (2-1) . The number is pointing back at itself at every multiplication operation.

In the recursive function above:
The multiply (arr, n) : n becomes n-1 in the next instance which is the same as decrement loop .

arr[n-1] : returns the number in the array for the next index in the array. Then it’s multiplied with the output.

I hope this helps.


I like to think of the core idea of recursions ‘make the problem smaller’.

If I want to multiply the first 5 elements of an array together, the smaller version of the problem is to multiply the first 4 elements of the array together.

I r use the answer to the smaller problem to make the answer to the bigger problem. So, if have the product of the first four elements, then I can multiply that number by the 5th element to find the product of the first 5 elements.

The base case is the ‘smallest’ version of the problem. In this case, the product of zero elements is 1.

var myArr = [1,2,3,4]

function multiply(arr, n) {

if (n <= 0) {

  return 1;

} else {

  return arr[n - 1] * multiply(arr, n - 1); // look at this



console.log(multiply(myArr, 4))

look at this: notice how i flipped the base arr[n - 1] and multiply(arr, n - 1);, easier to understand.

this explain better what’s happening.

The iteration goes like:
arr[n - 1] * calls it self (multiply(arr, n - 1)) and function returns
arr[n - 1] * call it self and function returns arr[n - 1] … so it multiplies
arr[n - 1] all the time.

At the end it also does total * 1 = then print the result

if you change 1 with 2, you’ll get the result multiplied by 2.

1 Like

Thanks everyone for your help in understanding this. I understand this better from the mathematical concept of factorial.

However, this return statement was a major source of confusion. It seemed the function multiply() was being multiplied by arr[n-1]. This really got me confused.

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