FAQ: Binary Search: Python - Iterative Binary Search

This community-built FAQ covers the “Iterative Binary Search” exercise from the lesson “Binary Search: Python”.

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does it matter what order the if statements go after we define the mid index & value? The check for mid value == target going first confuses me in the first test case. In the first test case the target is 9. At the end of the 2nd iteration of the while loop, the left pointer becomes 4 AFTER the mid value == target check. Why did it not go back to the top of the while loop to check for while 4 < 4

I got a bit confused with the values of right and left at first because I had another approach in mind going into the assignment. I was thinking the right and left indices would both be inclusive, meaning we would reach our final stop when left == right.
But the assignment prefers having an exclusive right index, meaning it’s 1 step outside of our search range (the way the range and slice functions work). So in this case when we’re looking for 9, the middle index in the first iteration becomes (0+5) // 2 = 2, we see that our target is larger than the middle value so we set left to 2+1=3. The middle index in the second iteration becomes (3+5)//2 = 4, the index of the 9 we’re searching for. Meaning we return before we reach the condition that terminates the while loop.
As for the order of the if-statements, they don’t really matter in this case since the variables used in the conditions aren’t altered until the next iteration, meaning all conditions are mutually exclusive. However since they’re mutually exclusive it makes sense to look for our base case before doing any more work.

The hint:

Are you setting terminating clause for the while loop to left_pointer > right_pointer and mid_idx to (left_pointer + right_pointer) // 2 ?

is wrong as the inequality should be < instead

2 Likes

In the iterative version of binary_search, why do we update left_idx = mid_idx +1 instead of left_idx = mid_idx?

def binary_search(sorted_list, target):
  left_pointer = 0
  right_pointer = len(sorted_list)
  
  # fill in the condition for the while loop
  while left_pointer < right_pointer:
    # calculate the middle index using the two pointers
    mid_idx = (left_pointer+right_pointer)//2
    mid_val = sorted_list[mid_idx]
    if mid_val == target:
      return mid_idx
    if target < mid_val:
      # set the right_pointer to the appropriate value
      right_pointer = mid_idx
    if target > mid_val:
      # set the left_pointer to the appropriate value
      **left_pointer = mid_idx +1**
  
  return "Value not in list"

Thanks!