Map Readme Python

Objectives

  • Understand how map works in python for mapping a given function to each element of an iterable.
  • Differentiate between map and filter functions and identify suitable uses cases for each

Introduction

In the last section, we saw how we select a subset of a list by iterating through a list of elements to select only those that match a certain criteria. In this lesson, we learn how to use the map function not to return a subset of elements, but to alter each element in a similar manner.

First Solve For One Element

Imagine that we have a list of names.

names = ['Homer', 'Marge', 'Bart', 'Maggie', 'Lisa']

We would like to add the name Simpson to the end of each name. Just as we did with filter, we can start by writing a function that solves the problem for one element.

def add_simpson(name):
    return name + " Simpson"
add_simpson("Homer")
'Homer Simpson'

Great, our method add_simpson successfully takes in a string, name, and returns that string with the added last name, Simpson.

Then Solve For All

Now we can iterate through the names one by one, and for each name we perform the same operation -- add the last name "Simpson".

def add_simpsons(elements):
    altered = []
    for element in elements:
        altered.append(add_simpson(element))
    return altered
simpsons = add_simpsons(names)
simpsons
['Homer Simpson',
 'Marge Simpson',
 'Bart Simpson',
 'Maggie Simpson',
 'Lisa Simpson']

So notice that unlike what we saw in filtering for elements, there is no if statement in this for loop. Instead, the number of elements in our output list is the same as the number of elements in our input list. However, each one of those elements has been altered.

Finding what's common

As you may have guessed, using a for loop to alter each element by applying some operation is a common procedure in programming. Let's write a function that derives the initials of each person's name.

def find_initial(name):
    names = name.split(' ')
    first_name = names[0]
    last_name = names[1]
    return first_name[0] + last_name[0]
homer = simpsons[0]
find_initial(homer)
'HS'
def find_initials(elements):    
    altered = []
    for element in elements:
        altered.append(find_initial(element))
    return altered

find_initials(simpsons)
['HS', 'MS', 'BS', 'MS', 'LS']

Our two functions, are quite similar.

def add_simpsons(elements):
#     altered = []
#     for element in elements:
        altered.append(add_simpson(element))
#     return altered

def find_initials(elements):    
#     altered = []
#     for element in elements:
        altered.append(find_initial(element))
#     return altered

Map Function

The map function, allows us to apply the same operation to each element and return a new list of elements receiving the modified elements from this operation.

A map() function is defined in python like this:

map(Function, Sequence)

Let's use the map function with add_simpson defined above.

map(add_simpson, names)
<map at 0x10eda6860>

However, just as the filter function returns a filter object, the map function returns a map object. So, in order to get our desired list back, we need to coerce the map object to a list:

list(map(add_simpson, names))
['Homer Simpson',
 'Marge Simpson',
 'Bart Simpson',
 'Maggie Simpson',
 'Lisa Simpson']

Similarly, we can pass simpsons list with find_initial to map and get the desired output as shown below.

list(map(find_initial, simpsons))
['HS', 'MS', 'BS', 'MS', 'LS']

So the map function goes through each element and executes the altering function on the current element. Then the return value of the altering function is added as an element to the new list, which is then returned after we coerce the map object to a list.

map, just like filter, is built into python is always available. It is also computationally more efficient than a manually coded for loop.

map can be used in more advance ways e.g. given multiple sequence arguments, it sends items taken form sequences in parallel as distinct arguments to the function. Let's see this through an example below.

The pow built-in python function takes in two numbers as arguments and calculates the result by setting second number as power of first number. Let's see this in action.

pow(2,4)
16

So 2 to the power 4 is 16 as seen above. map allows us to pass pow function along with two lists as arguments to calculate the powers of elements from first list to elements of second list as shown below:

list(map(pow, [2, 4, 8], [3, 5, 7]))
[8, 1024, 2097152]

This shows that with multiple sequences, map expects an N-argument function for N sequences i.e. pow requires two arguments and map uses use two lists for mapping elements.

Summary

In this section, we learned about the map function which takes in two arguments. The first argument is the altering function, which operates on each element by passing through the element as an argument and returning a value. The second argument is the list of elements to be iterated through and operated on. The return values of the altering function are appended to a new list, which is returned after we coerce our map object into a list.

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