Python offers many functions that can be used to implement patterns from functional programming.

Functional Programming is a programming philosophy where a program is defined by functions. These functions are stateless (i.e. there are no global variables). This paradigm helps designing distributed and concurrent algorithms.

Although one would rarely implement these in pure Python, it is a good exercise. Functional code often comes out very clean and is easy to debug and maintain.

A side effect is that it helps you to avoid class-based implementations, which often are more wordy.


The map() function applies a function to all elements of an iterable. It is returning a generator. map() is an alternative to a comprehension.

def square(x):
    return x ** 2

squares = map(square, numbers)


The filter() function returns all elements of an iterable for which a function returns True. It is the functional equivalent of the if clause in a comprehension.

def odd(x):
    return x % 2 != 0

odd_numbers = filter(odd, range(10))


from functools import reduce

numbers = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]

# reduce
def add(x, y):
    return x + y

print(reduce(add, numbers))
print(reduce(add, [[1, 2, 3], [4, 5, 6]]))

from functools import partial

def add(a, b):
    return a + b

add3 = partial(add, 3)

from functools import reduce

words = [
    (455, 'sea'),
    (336, 'boat'),
    (281, 'white'),
    (1226, 'whale'),
    (329, 'captain'),
    (510, 'Ahab')

def newlines(a, b):
    return a + '\n' + b

def wordformat(x):
    return "{:>10s}:{:5d}".format(x[1], x[0])

print(reduce(newlines, map(wordformat, words)))


The functools module contains a couple of ways to manipulate functions.

The partial fills in a part of the parameters, resulting in a new function:

add5 = functools.partial(addition, 5)
print(add5(8))  # results in 13


The lru_cache decorator caches results, so that the second call with the same parameters is faster. It is useful when your function is fully deterministic.

from functools import lru_cache

def fibonacci(n):
    if n < 2:
        return n
    return fibonacci(n-1) + fibonacci(n-2)


Try the program with and without the decorator!

Dr. Kristian Rother

I am a professional Python trainer, developer and author based in Berlin. I believe everybody can learn programming.

Contact me via:
+49 176 3052 4691


I have started writing a post-doc grant proposal for the DAAD post-doc programme using the skills I learned from the grant proposal workshop and I find the workshop to be very helpful.

Mecha Ezekiel, GGL Giessen

See also