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General Assembly Logo


Hey, Polyglots! Ready for another programming language?


Developers would greatly benefit from being able to accomplish the following in at least one other higher language:

  • Iterate through an array of elements
  • Declare, define, and evaluate variables
  • Understand the concepts of Object-Oriented-Programming
  • Demonstrate the ability to use conditional expressions to execute code based on given conditions
  • Write functions that receive parameters and return data


By the end of this, students should be able to:

  • Contrast Python REPL with the JS REPL node.
  • Contrast basic language features and types from Python with basic language features and types from Javascript.
  • Write a simple script in Python.


  1. Fork and clone this repository.


  1. brew install pyenv
  2. Open ~/.bashrc and add the following between Rbenv and Git configs:
# Pyenv
export PYENV_ROOT=/usr/local/var/pyenv
eval "$(pyenv init -)"
  1. pyenv install 3.6.4

  2. pyenv global 3.6.4

  3. Python doesn't ship with the most up to date version of package manager pip, so upgrade pip : pip install --upgrade pip

  4. brew install pyenv-virtualenv

  5. Add the following to ~/.bashrc under your additions from step 2:

    eval "$(pyenv virtualenv-init -)"

Atom Linter

We'll be using linter-pylint.

pip install pylint

apm install linter-pylint

Python REPL

We'll be using Python's built-in REPL to practice what we learn today.

Typing python3 onto the command line will bring you into this REPL using Python version 3.5.1, similar to calling node to run the node REPL.

To run Python scripts, simply run python3 <filename.rb> from the command line. To run Python in version 2.7.0 or the original Python version install on your machine, simply call python without the extra 3.

Hint: to print to the console in Python, we use print(<string to print>)

Let's practice this. Take a minute to look at lib/, then run the fizzbuzz script from the command line using python lib/

Core Syntax, Variables, and Operators


The default variable syntax uses snake case; as in keep_your_variables_defined_this_way and we_are_in_pythons_house_now.

Parens () in Python are required around parameters.

There is a lack of semicolons in Python. Line breaks in your code are enough to denote the end of an expression.

However, as you may have noticed from our fizzbuzz script, we are introduced to colons : throughout our code. Colons always come directly after the first line of the block statement. Colons are also immediately followed by a new, indented line (this indentation is purposeful whitespace).

Python's colons/whitespace combo act as an 'end' for method declarations and loops.

In Python, it is critical to consider whitespace usage when ensuring working code. Otherwise, you'll run into an IndentationError.

Variable Declaration

Variables can be defined without being previously declared. Variable reassignment is also very flexible.

>>> x = 2 # assigns x to numerical value 2
>>> x = "This is Dane." # reassigns x to string value

Also similar to Ruby, variables in Python cannot be called or stated without being defined.

>>> z
NameError: name 'z' is not defined

True and False

In Python, true and false are represented by True and False (yes, case matters).

The falsy values of Python are:

False None 0 0.0 '' [] {}

None is equivalent to Javscripts's null.


JavaScript Python
logical operators &&, ||, ! and, or, not
relational operators == != > < >= <= == != > < >= <=
arithmetic operators +, -, *, /, % +, -, *, /, //, %

Brief Aside: Double Slash (//) Operator

Integer division will always return a whole integer. Division with Floats returns most accurate results.

In Python, this whole integer division behavior can be mirrored with the // operator.

>>> 14.5 / 3    # => 4.833333
>>> 14.5 // 3   # => 4.0

Note that operations on floats will still return floats no matter the operator.

To convert between floats and integers, use:

>>> int(14.5)    # => 14
>>> float(14)    # => 14.0

Lab: Practice Using Operators

Let's get used to these operators.

In your Python REPL from the command line, take some time to practice each logical, relational and artithmetic operator listed for you above.


In Python, there is no difference between using " " or ' '. Escape Characters are evaluated in both.

>>> print("This is a \n new line.")
# => This is a
# => new line.

>>> print('This is a \n new line.')
# => This is a
# => new line.

String Interpolation

There are many options for string interpolation in Python. For our purposes, we'll be using .format(), as it is preferred for Python 3.5.

.format() is appended to a string and takes a parameters the strings to be concatenated. If the string contains empty {}s, the parameters fill the {}s in the order passed in. If they contain a number (beginning with 0), they will be mapped to the parameter passed to .format() at said index.

>>> awkward_nerd = "Justin"
>>> awesome_nerd = "Wes"
>>> occupation = "instructor"

>>> "{} is a pretty cool {}.".format(awkward_nerd, occupation)
# => "Justin is a pretty cool instructor."

>>> "{0} is a {1}. {2} is a {1} as well.".format(awkward_nerd, occupation, awesome_nerd)
# => "Justin is an instructor. Wes is an instructor as well."

Flow Control


Again, colons and whitespace are critical to working Python code. Aside from that and the use of elif vs. else if, these should feel very similar to Javascript conditional statements.

if x < 0:
elif x == 0:


Also like Javascript, Python employs while and for loops.

Python also allows for an optional else statement with each of these. With while loops, the else statement is executed once the while condition is no longer true. With for loops, else is executed upon the loop's completion.

count = 0
while count < 5:
   print(count, " is  less than 5")
   count = count + 1
   print(count, " is not less than 5")
count = 15
for i in range(1,count):

Again, this else is optional and different in nature from a conditional else. It functions more as a completion handler.


Functions in Python are much like in JavaScript. For example, like in JavaScript, functions need a an explicit return.

Basic function structure:

def function_example(param_one, param_two):
  """Example function returning string interpolation of parameters."""
  concat = "What a splendid function! I've got my {0} and {1}.".format(param_one, param_two)
  return concat

Brief Aside: Docstrings

You may have noticed something like

"""This function..."""

within each of our example functions. These are called docstrings and are conventionally used in Python to provide documentation throughout a codebase. Code will run fine without them, but that would stray from Python's conventions as well as throw you into linter message hell. Try them out!

Lab: Build a Calculator

In lib/, create a calculator function that takes two parameters. The first should be the operation to be completed (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division). The second should be a list with the appropriate number of numbers to operate on. The function mapped to the appropriate operation should take the expected numbers by index from the list passed in and return back to you the result of the operation.

We haven't discussed lists yet, but they are very similar to Javascript arrays. The syntax required for this is very similar to how you would approach this in Javascript.

Remember, to run a Python script from the command line:

python <>



Python lists are comparable to JavaScript arrays. They store comma separated values of varying data types between square brackets [].

Lists are ordered, thus, indices can be leveraged to get or set their elements.

wdi_base_langs = ["JavaScript", "Ruby", "SQL"]
wdi_base_langs[2] # => "SQL"
wdi_base_langs[0] = "JS" # => ["JS", "Ruby", "SQL"]

len() is used to get the length of a list in Python.

len(wdi_base_langs) # => 3

We can merge lists together using the + operator:

wdi_new_langs = ["Python"]
all_wdi_langs = wdi_new_langs + wdi_base_langs # => ["JS", "Ruby", "SQL", "Python"]

List Methods

We could have gone about adding "Python" to the end of the wdi_base_langs list by using .append().

wdi_base_langs.append("Python") # => ["JS", "Ruby", "SQL", "Python"]

.pop() removes the last element from a Python list. .append() will add to the end of a list.

We do not have built-in operators for removing or adding to the beginning of a list. As hackers, we've got some hacks, though.

.remove() allows us to remove an element at any index. Thus, list.remove(0) would remove the first element from a list.

We could implement our array merging to add to the beginning of a list. Look at the following:

a = "first"
b = ["second", "third"]
[a] + b # => ["first", "second", "third"]

Looping Through Lists

for loops with lists don't stray far from the loops we saw earlier.

all_wdi_langs = ["JS", "Ruby", "SQL", "Python"]

for lang in all_wdi_langs:


Python dictionaries are very similar to other key-value objects we've seen.

Dictionary keys must be unique. Creating a key-value pair for a key that already exists will simply reassign the value of the existing key.

Keys can be either strings or numbers.

There are two ways of instantiating a Python dictionary:

new_dict = dict()   # => {}
# or
new_dict = {}       # => {}

example_dict = {
  "key_one": "val one",
  "key_two": "val two",
  "key_three": "val three"

To add or retrieve a key-value pair, we implement square bracket notation:

new_dict["fun_key"] = "fresh"
new_dict["fun_key"]    # => "fresh"

.get() is another option for retrieving a key's value.

new_dict.get("fun_key") # => "fresh"

Dictionary defaults are a little different from object literals in Javascript. If it is unknown that a key you are retrieving exists, you can call .get() with a default value should it not exist.

new_dict.get("no_key", "not there") # => "not there"

Lab: Revamp FizzBuzz

In lib/, build a more robust FizzBuzz from scratch. Create a dictionary containing keys fizz, buzz, fizzbuzz, and other, each with lists as values. As you iterate through all the numbers from 1 to max_num, add each number to one of the lists mentioned above; numbers divisible by 3 only should go into the fizz list, numbers divisible by 5 only should go into the buzz list, numbers divisible by both should go into the fizzbuzz list, and numbers divisible by neither should go into the "other" list. Finally, once you're done, print the resulting dictionary to check that your code works properly.

Additional Resources


Source code distributed under the MIT license. Text and other assets copyright General Assembly, Inc., all rights reserved.