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In mathematics, the boustrophedon transform is a procedure which maps one sequence to another. The transformed sequence is computed by an "addition" operation, implemented as if filling a triangular array in a boustrophedon (zigzag- or serpentine-like) manner -- as opposed to a "Raster Scan" sawtooth-like manner.



The boustrophedon transform is a numerical, sequence-generating transformation, which is determined by an "addition" operation.

Figure 1. The boustrophedon transform: Start with the original sequence (in blue), then add numbers as indicated by the arrows, and finally read-off the transformed sequence on the other side (in red, with  ).

Generally speaking, given a sequence:  , the boustrophedon transform yields another sequence:  , where   is likely defined equivalent to  . The entirety of the transformation itself can be visualized (or imagined) as being constructed by filling-out the triangle as shown in Figure 1.

Boustrophedon TriangleEdit

To fill-out the numerical Isosceles triangle (Figure 1), you start with the input sequence,  , and place one value (from the input sequence) per row, using the boustrophedon scan (zigzag- or serpentine-like) approach.

The top vertex of the triangle will be the input value  , equivalent to output value  , and we number this top row as row 0.

The subsequent rows (going down to the base of the triangle) are numbered consecutively (from 0) as integers -- let   denote the number of the row currently being filled. These rows are constructed according to the row number ( ) as follows:

  • For all rows, numbered  , there will be exactly   values in the row.
  • If   is odd, then put the value   on the right-hand end of the row.
    • Fill-out the interior of this row from right-to-left, where each value (index:  ) is the result of "addition" between the value to right (index:  ) and the value to the upper right (index:  ).
    • The output value   will be on the left-hand end of an odd row (where   is odd).
  • If   is even, then put the input value   on the left-hand end of the row.
    • Fill-out the interior of this row from left-to-right, where each value (index:  ) is the result of "addition" between the value to its left (index:  ) and the value to its upper left (index:  ).
    • The output value   will be on the right-hand end of an even row (where   is even).

Refer to the arrows in Figure 1 for a visual representation of these "addition" operations.

Note that for a given, finite input-sequence:  , of   values, there will be exactly   rows in the triangle, such that   is an integer in the range:   (exclusive). In other words, the last row is  .

Recurrence relationEdit

A more formal definition uses a recurrence relation. Define the numbers   (with k ≥ n ≥ 0) by


Then the transformed sequence is defined by   (for   and greater indices).

Per this definition, note the following definitions for values outside the restrictions (from the relationship above) on   pairs:


Special CasesEdit

In the case a0 = 1, an = 0 (n > 0), the resulting triangle is called the Seidel–Entringer–Arnold Triangle[1] and the numbers   are called Entringer numbers (sequence A008281 in the OEIS).

In this case the numbers in the transformed sequence bn are called the Euler up/down numbers[2]. This is sequence A000111 on the On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences. These enumerate the number of alternating permutations on n letters and are related to the Euler numbers and the Bernoulli numbers.

Algebraic Definition(s)Edit

Building from the geometric design of the boustrophedon transform, algebraic definitions of the relationship from input values ( ) to output values ( ) can be defined for different algebras ("numeric domains").

Euclidean (Real) valuesEdit

In the Euclidean ( ) Algebra for Real ( )-valued scalars, the boustrophedon transformed Real-value (bn) is related to the input value, (an), as:


with the reverse relationship (input from output) defined as:


where (En) is the sequence of "up/down" numbers -- also known as secant or tangent numbers[3].

The exponential generating functionEdit

The exponential generating function of a sequence (an) is defined by


The exponential generating function of the boustrophedon transform (bn) is related to that of the original sequence (an) by


The exponential generating function of the unit sequence is 1, so that of the up/down numbers is sec x + tan x.


  1. ^ Weisstein, Eric W. "Seidel-Entringer-Arnold Triangle." From MathWorld--A Wolfram Web Resource.
  2. ^ Weisstein, Eric W. "Eulerian Number." From MathWorld--A Wolfram Web Resource.
  3. ^ Weisstein, Eric W. "Boustrophedon Transform." From MathWorld--A Wolfram Web Resource.
  • Millar, Jessica; Sloane, N.J.A.; Young, Neal E. (1996). "A New Operation on Sequences: the Boustrouphedon Transform". Journal of Combinatorial Theory Series A. 76 (1): 44–54. arXiv:math.CO/0205218. doi:10.1006/jcta.1996.0087.
  • Weisstein, Eric W. (2002). CRC Concise Encyclopedia of Mathematics, Second Edition. Chapman & Hall/CRC. p. 273. ISBN 1-58488-347-2.