With both of our base cases covered, we’ll turn our attention to the recursive step.

We have two options depending on the comparison of mid_val to target.

You’ll recall that our data-set is sorted.

We’ll leverage that knowledge in our recursive step to cut the problem in half at each step.

If the mid_val is greater than our target, we know we can disregard every element at an index greater than mid_idx:

sorted_list = [9, 10, 11, 12, 13] target = 9 mid_idx = len(sorted_list) // 2 # 2 mid_val = sorted_list[mid_idx] # 11 11 > 9 # True # No need to check right half: [12, 13] # Those values will only be bigger... # Instead, we'll check the left half! left_half = sorted_list[:mid_idx] # [9, 10] # If mid_val had been less than the target # We would check in the right half... target = 17 17 > mid_val right_half = sorted_list[mid_idx + 1:] # [12, 13]



Below our check for whether mid_val == target make a new conditional.

Check whether the middle value is greater than the target.

If it is:

  • make a variable: left_half that is every element in sorted_list up to but not including mid_val.
  • return a recursive call to binary_search() given left_half and target as arguments.

Make another conditional below the last checking if mid_val is less than our target.

If it is:

  • make a variable: right_half that is every element in sorted_list after mid_val.
  • make a variable: result and assign it to a recursive call of binary_search() given right_half and target.

Why are we storing this in a variable?

We’re making a smaller copy of the sorted list at each recursive call, so our indices for the same values change:

sorted_list = [7, 8, 9, 10, 11] right_half = [10, 11] # index of "11" in sorted_list: 4 # index of "11" in right_half: 1

We can account for the missing indices by returning the result plus the index segments of the lists we’ve discarded.

We’ll do this in the form of mid_idx + 1.

sorted_list = [7, 8, 9, 10, 11] binary_search(sorted_list, 11) mid_idx = 2 # 9 < 11, we search in right half... # within the recursive call: # right_half = [10, 11] # mid_idx = 1 # target matched, we return 1 # within original call, result is 1 (result + mid_idx + 1) == 4

Return result plus the missing indices.


When we search in the right half of the list and find the value, this works.

Unfortunately, there’s an error if we can’t locate the value: We’ll try to add "value not found" to mid_idx + 1, resulting in a TypeError.

Add in a conditional:

  • If result is "value not found"
    • then return result.

Otherwise, return the index arithmetic as before.

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