Higher-Order Functions

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Higher-order functions are like the wizards of the programming world - they have the power to wield other functions as their weapons. In functional programming, they play a crucial role in keeping our code clean, modular, and reusable. So, let's don our wizard robes and dive into the magical world of higher-order functions.

What are Higher-Order Functions?

A higher-order function is a function that either:

  1. Takes one or more functions as arguments.
  2. Returns a function as its result.

In simpler terms, higher-order functions are functions that can work with other functions. They allow us to create more abstract and reusable code by treating functions as data, which can be passed around and manipulated.

Here's a basic example using lambda functions in Python:

def apply(func, x, y): return func(x, y) add = lambda x, y: x + y multiply = lambda x, y: x * y result1 = apply(add, 5, 3) # result1 = 8 result2 = apply(multiply, 5, 3) # result2 = 15

In this example, the apply function takes a function (func) and two arguments (x, y). It then calls the func with x and y. We pass add and multiply functions as arguments to apply and get the respective results.

Common Higher-Order Functions

Functional programming languages usually come with a set of built-in higher-order functions that you'll likely encounter. Some common ones are map, filter, and reduce.


map applies a given function to each item of an iterable (like a list) and returns a new iterable with the results. Here's an example in JavaScript:

const numbers = [1, 2, 3, 4]; const square = x => x * x; const squaredNumbers = numbers.map(square); // [1, 4, 9, 16]


filter creates a new iterable with only the elements that pass a certain condition (test function). Here's an example in Python:

numbers = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] is_even = lambda x: x % 2 == 0 even_numbers = list(filter(is_even, numbers)) # [2, 4, 6]


reduce takes an iterable and a function, then successively applies the function to the elements, accumulating the result. Here's an example in JavaScript:

const numbers = [1, 2, 3, 4]; const add = (x, y) => x + y; const sum = numbers.reduce(add, 0); // 10

Closures and Currying

Higher-order functions can also return functions, which brings us to closures and currying. A closure is a function that "closes over" some variables from its surrounding scope, allowing it to remember the values even after the outer function has completed.

Currying is a technique where a function that takes multiple arguments is decomposed into a series of functions that each take a single argument. This can make the code more readable and modular. Here's an example in Python:

def greet(greeting): def greet_person(name): return f"{greeting}, {name}!" return greet_person hello = greet("Hello") print(hello("Alice")) # "Hello, Alice!"

In this example, greet is a higher-order function that returns the greet_person closure. The greet_person closure "remembers" the greeting value from its outer scope.

Now that we've explored the mystical world of higher-order functions, you're ready to wield their power in your functional programming adventures. Remember, with great power comes great responsibility - use higher-order functions responsibly for cleaner, more modular, and reusable code. Happy coding!

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