I am trying to solve the following recurrence relation :-

$T(n) = T(\sqrt{n}) + n$ using masters theorem.

We can substitute $n = 2 ^ m$

$T(2^m) = T(2 ^ {\frac{m}{2}}) + 2^m$

Now we can rewrite it as

$S(m) = S(\frac{m}{2}) + m$

The complexity of the above recurrence will be $O(m)$

Hence, $T(n) = T(2^m) = S(m) = O(m)$.

So we can say that $T(n) =O(\log n)$ as $n=2^m$.

But the answer is $O(\log\log n)$ . What is wrong with my approach ?


The answer cannot be $O(\log\log n)$. Already without applying any recursion we have the inequality $T(n) = T(\sqrt{n}) + n >= n$. So the complexity cannot be smaller than $O(n)$.

But now to your computation. You made a mistake when you transformed from $T$ to $S$. You defined $S(m) = T(2^m)$. But this gives the following equation:

$$S(m) = S\left(\frac{m}{2}\right) + 2^m$$

This falls into the third case of the master theorem, therefore $S(m) \in \Theta(2^m)$. And from this follows $T(n) \in \Theta(n)$.

  • $\begingroup$ When transforming T to S we write 2^m as m, then why don't we write m instead of 2^m at the end ? $\endgroup$ – Zephyr Aug 15 '17 at 4:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Zephyr You need to be quite careful here. We defined the new function $S(m) := T(2^m)$. This means that we can replace $T(2^m)$ by $S(m)$, and $T(2^{m/2})$ by $S(m/2)$. But this doesn't mean that $2^m$ gets replaced by $m$. $\endgroup$ – Jakube Aug 15 '17 at 6:11
  • $\begingroup$ Replacing all $2^m$ terms by $m$ wouldn't make any sense. You would take the $\log$ of some function arguments, and of the constant term at the end. That's not allowed. $\log(x+y) \ne \log(x) + \log(y)$. $\endgroup$ – Jakube Aug 15 '17 at 6:19
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answer. Can you help me with this question cs.stackexchange.com/q/80082/63873? $\endgroup$ – Zephyr Aug 15 '17 at 6:51

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