Contents

# Introduction

Martin Odersky1 in his Functional Programming in Scala course illustrates higher-order functions2 with a simple example in Scala. Scala is a modern functional programming language where functions are first-class citizen so they can be used, like any other value, as a parameter and returned as a result.

// Simple sum function using a recursion to perform an operation on integers between a and b
def sum(f: Int => Int, a: Int, b: Int): Int =
if (a > b) 0
else f(a) + sum(f, a + 1, b)

// Using anonymous function -- addict to syntactic sugar -- to define
// The sum of integers between a and b
def sumInts(a: Int, b: Int) = sum(x => x, a, b)
// The sum of the cubes of integers between, a and b
def sumCubes(a: Int, b: Int) = sum(x => x * x * x, a, b)

> sumInts(1, 10)
Int = 55
> sumCubes(1,10)
Int = 3025


I love the Scala lean syntax–and its syntactic sugars–, but Python and R–my old friends–are also, among other paradigms, functional languages. So how is it possible to perform the same things?

# In Python

The syntax is very close–and the results are the same :-). Anonymous functions are called lambda.

# The way to define this recursive function is almost the same -- just sad to have to write return statements
def sum(f, a, b):
if (a > b): return 0
else: return f(a) + sum(f, a + 1, b)

# In Python anonymous functions are called lambda and are defined as follow
def sum_ints(a, b):
return sum(lambda x: x, a, b)

def sum_cubes(a, b):
return sum(lambda x: x * x * x, a, b)

>>> sum_ints(1, 10)
55
>>> sum_cubes(1, 10)
3025


# In R

Mainly the same thing. I’m not an expert in R and maybe there is a way to use the formula notation (~) instead of the anonymous function notation, but I don’t know.

# Brackets have been ommited
sum <- function(f, a, b) {
if (a > b) return(0)
else return(f(a) + sum(f, a + 1, b))
}

# Anonymous function are also possible
sum_ints <- function(a, b) {
return(sum((function(x) x), a, b))
}

sum_cubes <- function(a, b) {
return(sum((function(x) x * x * x), a, b))
}

> sum_ints(1, 10)
55
> sum_cubes(1, 10)
3025


In the next course, he introduces more compact syntax, but this is another story.

1. Martin Odersky has designed the Scala programming language. ↩︎