Advanced Hashes Hashketball

Learning Goals

  • Practice building nested hashes.
  • Practice iterating over nested hashes.


This lab is about as representative of real-life tasks as a programmer as you can get: data on paper or in tables needs to be given to a programming language to deliver insights.

You're going to perform an analysis on an NBA game. You've been provided some basic game data in a series of tables. You're going to ask Ruby to help you answer some questions about the game.

This challenge comes in two major pieces:

  1. Build a nested data structure from text and data stored in tables
  2. Process the nested data structure to produce insights about how various players performed

While you've worked with nested data structures using simple looping and Enumerables, you've never before had to create such a complex nested data structure and process it as well. Work where you processed Array of Arrays or Arrays of Hashes would be wise to freshen up on as preparation. Take it in pieces, remember your training, and you'll get there!

We also strongly recommend that you read the entire README before you start coding. We're going to show some tips and tricks that make the coding a lot easier...but only if you read through to the end.

Code your solution in hashketball.rb following the steps below. Because this lab is so big, we'll show you new techniques for running only small chunks of the test suite so that you're not overwhelmed by all the test data!

Step 1: Building the Hash

The first method you will define is called game_hash. This method contains and returns a hash nested in the following manner:

  • The top level of the hash has two keys: :home, for the home team, and :away, for the away team.
  • The values of the :home and :away keys are hashes. These hashes have the following keys:
    • :team_name
    • :colors
    • :players
  • The :team_name key points to a string of the team name.
  • The :colors key points to an array of strings that are that team's colors.
  • The :players key points to an Array of Hashes. Each Hash in the Array should contain the players' stats. Each stat should be a key that points to a value for that stat. The keys should be:
    • :player_name
    • :number
    • :shoe
    • :points
    • :rebounds
    • :assists
    • :steals
    • :blocks
    • :slam_dunks
  • The data for each player is provided in a table below.

Home Team:

  • team name: Brooklyn Nets
  • colors: Black, White
  • players:
Stat Info Info Info Info Info
Player Name Alan Anderson Reggie Evans Brook Lopez Mason Plumlee Jason Terry
Number 0 30 11 1 31
Shoe 16 14 17 19 15
Points 22 12 17 26 19
Rebounds 12 12 19 11 2
Assists 12 12 10 6 2
Steals 3 12 3 3 4
Blocks 1 12 1 8 11
Slam Dunks 1 7 15 5 1

Away Team:

  • team name: Charlotte Hornets
  • colors: Turquoise, Purple
  • players:
Stat Info Info Info Info Info
Player Name Jeff Adrien Bismack Biyombo DeSagna Diop Ben Gordon Kemba Walker
Number 4 0 2 8 33
Shoe 18 16 14 15 15
Points 10 12 24 33 6
Rebounds 1 4 12 3 12
Assists 1 7 12 2 12
Steals 2 22 4 1 7
Blocks 7 15 5 1 5
Slam Dunks 2 10 5 0 12

Write a method called game_hash that returns your nested data structure. We might suggest starting with having game_hash return only a {}. Then run the game_hash tests (see next section) and slowly build up your nested data structure to satisfy those tests. We'll describe the strategy here in the next sections.

Process Tip: Writing Nested Data Structures is Hard

Writing nested data structures is challenging because we humans can lose track of whether or not we closed a {...} set or added a , in the right place. Running a small chunk of tests (more on that in the next section ) to make sure our nested data structure is syntactically valid (i.e. honors Ruby's grammar rules) is a good idea. This allows a process like:

  • Start with something syntactically valid, but incorrect e.g. {}
  • Make an edit
  • run the tests
  • Is the nested data structure valid? Great!
  • Make another edit
  • Run the tests...error!
  • Add missing comma
  • Add the comma
  • Run tests...
  • Working again!

Syntactically valid, but incorrect nested data structures are easier to correct than to fix syntactically invalid and incorrect nested data structures. Constantly asking Ruby "Hey can you read this?" means that you're never have a mountain of things that are broken...maybe small, more-easily-fixed little pile.

Once you have a syntactically valid, but incorrect nested data structure, you can slowly add to the nested data structure and move it to being correct. A key strategy to iterating towards correctness is running a small subset of tests to have Ruby validate our nested data structure instead of our error-prone human eyes.

Process Tip: Run Only a Few Tests

When we have a lot of tests and run them all with learn and get back all those failing messages it can make us feel sad. It's like telling someone you're trying to learn an ├ętude on piano and they keep telling you it's not perfect yet. "Yeah, we know, that's why we said we're l-e-a-r-n-i-n-g it."

We can run a section of our tests by using the following command from the CLI:

rspec spec/hashketball_spec.rb -e game_hash

The thing that lets us run only a portion of the test suite is the -e for --example flag. It means "only run tests in a section that matches the word game_hash." You can read more about it in the RSpec documentation for --example.

The learn program uses rspec to evaluate test success. So, if we get a subset of the tests working, as proved by rspec, we can trust that those tests will pass when we run learn.

Wisdom: Move from working to working to working. Never let "broken in this way, and that way, and that way" mount up!

Leaving Step 1

Let's zoom back out again and run all the tests. Many tests fail, but the good news is that the three tests in the "game_hash" example are passing. That means we have a correct and syntactically valid nested data structure to work with. That means we can start building the methods that the tests demand. We're ready for Step 2!

Step 2: Building Methods

At this point, you're where you were with earlier labs. You were given a nested data structure and then needed to process it to product insights. Since you have a thorough understanding of the nested data structure (you wrote it, after all), we don't need to review things like using pp to "pretty-print" the nested data structure. We can pick up on our process from where we need to start processing the nested data structure into insights.

  1. Ensure you can read data out of the nested data structure with simple, basic [] calls
  2. Wrap basic code that "reaches into" the nested data structure in methods that have friendly human-names. Wrap basic (or "First Order") methods into methods that do more ("Nth Order") and are human-brain-friendly (list_snacks)
  3. Be flexible; work from what you have to where you want to go; or, work backward; or, make a midpoint between what you have and what you need to have

While you might have seen this pattern with simple nested data structure work, this pattern is still valid. The only thing that's changed is that in some places you can see where an Enumerable could make your code clearer and briefer. This process works. Take this lab as a chance to hone your skills attacking BIG problems with process on your side.

Applying Nested Data Structure-Processing Process

Run learn. There are a whole bunch of methods that are expected to exist. The first one is num_points_scored. But there's so much output. Let's make it more manageable (again).

We can run this method's test, again by using the -e or --example flag: rspec spec/hashketball_spec.rb -e num_points_scored.

PRO TIP: You can use this strategy to run small chunks of the test suite. Simply look in the spec/hashketball_spec.rb file and find a describe block. You can run all the tests under it by using that block's String as an argument to -e.

That num_points_scored method produces an insight. Here's a specification:

  • Build a method, num_points_scored that takes in an argument of a player's name and returns the number of points scored for that player.

Why don't we define that method and have it return game_hash?

def num_points_scored

Run the test again. Sure enough, our method fails (unsurprisingly). Here's a chance to employ the "see-saw" strategy. Add code to get num_points_scored working. If you need to "invent" helper methods, to help you process game_hash, do so! Here's some sample thought process:

Think about where in the hash you will find a player's :points. How can you iterate down into that level? Think about the return value of your method. Remember that .each returns the original collection that you are iterating over. How can you return the number of points for a particular player? How would we have done it with a simple while loop? Which Enumerable helps here? Is a while-loop better than an Enumerable? Etc.

If you repeat the process we just explored together, you will be able to deliver more complex methods to satisfy tests. Find a failing test, build a "skeleton method," iterate on the code, get success, and move on. This is the way software is "grown" in the real world.

Additional Methods

  • Build a method, shoe_size, that takes in an argument of a player's name and returns the shoe size for that player.

    • Think about how you will find the shoe size of the correct player. How can you check and see if a player's name matches the name that has been passed into the method as an argument?
  • Build a method, team_colors, that takes in an argument of the team name and returns an Array of that team's colors.

  • Build a method, team_names, that operates on the game Hash to return an Array of the team names.

  • Build a method, player_numbers, that takes in an argument of a team name and returns an Array of the jersey numbers for that team.

  • Build a method, player_stats, that takes in an argument of a player's name and returns a hash of that player's stats.

    • Check out the following example of the expected return value of the player_stats method:
  player_stats("Alan Anderson")
  => { :number => 0,
        :shoe => 16,
        :points => 22,
        :rebounds => 12,
        :assists => 12,
        :steals => 3,
        :blocks => 1,
        :slam_dunks => 1
  • Build a method, big_shoe_rebounds, that will return the number of rebounds associated with the player that has the largest shoe size. Break this one down into steps:
    • First, find the player with the largest shoe size
    • Then, return that player's number of rebounds
    • Remember to think about return values here.

Bonus Questions:

Define methods to return the answer to the following questions:

  1. Which player has the most points? Call the method most_points_scored.

  2. Which team has the most points? Call the method winning_team.

  3. Which player has the longest name? Call the method player_with_longest_name.

Super Bonus:

  1. Write a method that returns true if the player with the longest name had the most steals. Call the method long_name_steals_a_ton?.

"I am completely stuck"

This is a challenging lab. Process, small methods, helper methods, the see-saw technique. All of these are tools that are designed to get you un-stuck.

One last tool is the "Pry" debugging library. We don't teach it before this lab because it brings in the concept of external "libraries" called "Gems." This can get really complex with problems around "Do you have permission on your computer to install gems" and "Did you install the gem in the wrong place and this lab can't see it, etc." We'll cover that in more depth in a different module.

That said, if it's available on your system, it can be a real help.

From the command line run the command gem install pry. If the gem command returns telling you that pry was installed or that it's already installed, the following should work for you.

Next, at the top of hashketball.rb put the line require "pry".

Using Pry, when running RSpec tests with the learn command, we can pause the execution of our Ruby code. This allows us to step into the code and play with any available variables or methods that are in scope.

We tell Ruby where to pause by writing binding.pry in our code. When Ruby sees that magic word, it will stop execution and hand things over to a REPL called Pry. It's there that we can do the inspection.

Let's inspect what our num_points_scored works with:

def num_points_scored(player_name)
  game_hash.each do |location, team_data|
    #are you ABSOLUTELY SURE what 'location' and 'team data' are? use binding.pry to find out!
    team_data.each do |attribute, data|
      #are you ABSOLUTELY SURE what 'attribute' and 'team data' are? use binding.pry to find out!

      #what is 'data' at each loop throughout .each block? when will the following line of code work and when will it break?
      data.each do |data_item|

At every place Ruby sees binding.pry, it will stop the program's execution. While the program is stopped, you can print out variables that are in scope. At the first binding.pry in the example above, you can type in location or team_data and have those values printed out by pry. When you're done at the binding, type exit and the code will resume running. If you're all done with a given pry session exit-program will close Pry and return you to the command-line.

Again, the best way to avoid needing Pry is to follow the process and only add code by small increments. But, sometimes, when all else fails, a binding.pry can help you find your way again. We'll teach you more about debugging throughout this course and do a deeper dive on Pry specifically.


This is a new frontier for you! You are now using powerful tools of Ruby to transform a nested data structure, that you made from non-computer-ready data, to produce insights. You've made huge strides in becoming a really solid developer in the procedural programming paradigm. This is a huge moment. Celebrate it!

Believe it or not, the code that put rockets in space and mankind on the Moon were only slight variations on this style of programming. You've learned something really powerful!


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