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I'm starting to study the master theorem, why does something like

$$T(n) = aT(n/b)+f(n)$$

solves to

$$f(n)^{\log_ba}$$ ?

I'm a bit confused on the resolution

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What is confusing you exactly? A proof of this fact can be found in the book Introduction to Algorithms. – anthus Aug 17 '12 at 12:13
It is important when asking a question to actually ask a question. Can you give us an example of what is confusing you? – Thomas Andrews Aug 17 '12 at 12:44
I don't know where the second formula came from, @DanielPietrobon is that explained where the second formula come from in the book you cited? – John Smith Aug 17 '12 at 12:59
Again, "where the second formula came from" is not a clear question. Are you looking for the history of the formula, a proof of why the formula works, or some other question? – Thomas Andrews Aug 17 '12 at 13:16
Is this what you're looking for? Or is there something in particular that is hanging you up? – mixedmath Aug 17 '12 at 18:30
up vote 2 down vote accepted

The right way to think about this is that we reduce the original problem, of size $n$, to $a$ separate problems of size $n/b$, and we do this recursively. At stage $i$, there are $a^i$ problems of size $n b^{-i}$. For each such problem, we need to do something which costs $f(x)$ on a problem of size $x$. Hence, the total cost at level $i$ is $a^i f(n b^{-i})$.

This recursion has $\log_b n$ levels, so the total work consumed at all levels is $$ \sum_{i=0}^{\log_b n} a^i f(n b^{-i}) $$

Depending on the growth of $f$, this is basically a geometric series.

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For an in depth explanation and proof of the "Master Theorem" or "Master Method" of finding asymptotic solutions to recurrences, see MIT OCW's Introduction to Algorithms, Lecture 2.

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