Number of levels in the recursion tree

While solving Recurrences of type $T\left ( n \right ) = a\cdot T(\frac{n}{b})+c$ using the recursion tree method, number of levels in the recursion tree is equal to $\log_{b}n$ when $b$ is a constant.
But when $b$ is dependent on $n$, can we say that number of levels are still $\log_{b}n$?
For example, in
$T\left ( n \right ) = a\cdot T\left ( \frac{n}{\sqrt{n}} \right )+c$

Can we say that number of levels in the recursion tree are equal to $\log_{\sqrt{n}}n = 2$?
I guess this is wrong but I am unable to reason it properly, please explain me the reason "why this is wrong?"(If it really is).

• I think our reference question has methods for such parameters of $T$. See also here.
– Raphael
Jan 19 '16 at 8:27

If $b$ is not a constant, then no, you can't say the number of levels is still $\log_b n$.

In your example, we have $T(n) = a T(\sqrt{n}) + c$ (since $n/\sqrt{n} = \sqrt{n}$). There are more than 2 levels in the recursion tree. In fact, there are $\lg \lg n$ levels in the recursion tree. So, no, you can't just compute $\lg_{\sqrt{n}} n = 2$ and conclude that there are 2 levels in the recursion tree -- that gives the wrong answer.

(Why $\lg n$? Suppose $n=2^k$. Then each level halves $k$, so we do a total of $\lg k$ levels we get down to a constant. Since $k = \lg n$, we get a total of $\lg k = \lg \lg n$ levels.)

The Master theorem gives a formula for solving this kind of recurrence, but it's only valid when $b$ is a constant.

• I understood what you said but actually I wrote $T\left ( n \right ) = a\cdot T\left ( \sqrt{n} \right ) + c$ itself as $T\left ( n \right ) = a\cdot T\left ( \frac{n}{\sqrt{n}} \right )+c$ to see that by what fraction of $n$ the problem is getting reduced with each level of the tree, so that I can easily compute number of levels by using logarithm.I don't think taking $\sqrt{n}$ as log base should be an issue as $\log_{\sqrt{n}}n= \frac{\log_{2}n}{\log_{2}{\sqrt{n}}}$.Could you please tell me what went wrong here, why my estimation for number of levels is wrong?
– Romy
Jan 19 '16 at 9:02
• @Romy, it's because your line of reasoning is only valid when $b$ is a constant. If you're still confused, I suggest you try writing down a careful justification for why your line of reasoning should be valid, and then you might discover at what step it goes awry; if not, edit the question with that detailed reasoning to give us something concrete to respond to.
– D.W.
Jan 19 '16 at 10:00