In this letter an improved method for the successive-cancellation decoding of polar codes is proposed. To avoid computations associated with redundant tree-traversals and syndrome calculations, recursive properties of polar codes are newly exploited in the proposed algorithm. Instead of computing a syndrome vector at every node, some syndrome vectors are directly obtained by recursively decomposing the syndrome vector computed previously. Furthermore, a modified syndrome check rule is proposed to prune unnecessary sub-trees efficiently. Compared with the latest pruning method, the proposed method reduces the latency by 23% for a (2048, 1024) polar code without sacrificing the error-correcting performance.