Lecturer: Vince Knight

Office: M1.30

email: knightva@cf.ac.uk

chat: https://gitter.im/computing-for-mathematics/Lobby

Office hours: Thursday 1400-1600

What was in this lab sheet:

  • Defining variables;
  • If statements and boolean variables;
  • While loops.


You should watch and listen to the videos. These are there to help and offer an initial explanation of the work. They are the equivalent of the lecture.

Some students have been confused by the >>> on the lab sheets which do not appear in the videos. In the lab sheets and handouts, is important these are just there so that you can see the difference between the input and outputs. When you type the code you do not need to type the >>>.

Some of you have been showing me code on the chat channel. To make it easier to read try and surround it in between 3 ticks: `. You can read more about formatting markdown here: gitter.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/200176682-Markdown-basics

Commmenting and naming variables is important: take a look at how I have done this in the solutions.

Indentation is important in Python

The levels at which Python indents things is important. This helps creates blocks of code that Python runs on certain occasions.

Let us take a look at the following:

>>> n = 0
>>> while n < 6:
...    n += 1
...    if n % 2 == 0:
...        print(n)

The above repeats the code and prints n if it is even until n is greater than or equal to 10.

Here is a slightly different statement:

>>> n = 0
>>> while n < 6:
...    n += 1
>>> if n % 2 == 0:
...    print(n)

While loops

So far, we have mainly used while loops to repeat an action whilst incrementing a given variable. In fact while loops can be used to repeat actions until any boolean condition is no longer true.

In future lab sessions we will see the use of ‘libraries’. These are parts of python that can be loaded in and used as necessary. To illustrate the above point we’re going to make use of the random library which can be used to get random numbers.

>>> import random
>>> random_number = random.randint(1, 6)

The variable random_number will be a random integer between 1 and 6.

So we can now use that in conjunction with a while loop to simulate rolling a dice until we get a 6:

>>> number_of_rolls = 1
>>> while random.randint(1, 6) != 6:
...     number_of_rolls += 1

The variable number_of_rolls increments each time we do not ‘roll’ a six. Take a look at the variable, it will be different every time the above code is run.


When you get errors in your code, look at the last message in the print out. For example. Something the following is saying that somewhere in the code ran there was a : missing at the end of the if n == 4 statement.

Exception raised:
    Traceback (most recent call last):
      File "/Users/vince/anaconda/lib/python3.5/doctest.py", line 1321, in __run
        compileflags, 1), test.globs)
      File "<doctest 02-indentation-while-loops-debugging.md[10]>", line 1
        if n == 4
    SyntaxError: invalid syntax

Also, as described in the debugging video, it is often useful to incorporate print statements throughout your code to understand what some values are at given points in time.

Crashing jupyter

It is possible that whilst coding you create an infinite loop. For example the following will never complete:

n = 0
while True:
    n += 1

You can see that python is working because the circle in the top right will be solid/filled in. To stop such a loop, go to Kernel on the menu bar of your notebook:

  • Click on interrupt,
  • If that’s not enough click on restart kernel,

Finally, if both of those don’t work, you might need to restart the server all together.