# Iterative Collatz with memoization

I'm trying to write efficient code for calculating the chain-length of each number.

For example, 13 -> 40 -> 20 -> 10 -> 5 -> 16 -> 8 -> 4 -> 2 -> 1. It took 13 iterations to get 13 down to 1, so collatz(13) = 10.

Here is my implementation:

def collatz(n, d={1:1}):
if not n in d:
d[n] = collatz(n * 3 + 1 if n & 1 else n/2) + 1
return d[n]


It's quite efficient, but I'd like to know whether the same efficiency (or better) can be achieved by an iterative one.

## 1 Answer

Using the Python call stack to remember your state is very convenient and often results in shorter code, but it has a disadvantage:

>>> collatz(5**38)
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
File "cr24195.py", line 3, in collatz
d[n] = collatz(n * 3 + 1 if n & 1 else n/2) + 1
[... many lines omitted ...]
File "cr24195.py", line 3, in collatz
d[n] = collatz(n * 3 + 1 if n & 1 else n/2) + 1
RuntimeError: maximum recursion depth exceeded


You need to remember all the numbers you've visited along the way to your cache hit somehow. In your recursive implementation you remember them on the call stack. In an iterative implementation one would have to remember this stack of numbers in a list, perhaps like this:

def collatz2(n, d = {1: 1}):
"""Return one more than the number of steps that it takes to reach 1
starting from n by following the Collatz procedure.

"""
stack = []
while n not in d:
stack.append(n)
n = n * 3 + 1 if n & 1 else n // 2
c = d[n]
while stack:
c += 1
d[stack.pop()] = c
return c


This is a bit verbose, and it's slower than your recursive version:

>>> from timeit import timeit
>>> timeit(lambda:map(collatz, xrange(1, 10**6)), number=1)
2.7360708713531494
>>> timeit(lambda:map(collatz2, xrange(1, 10**6)), number=1)
3.7696099281311035


But it's more robust:

>>> collatz2(5**38)
1002