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6. Increment

Select world Around 1.

Suppose we wanted to count the number of steps taken by Reeborg to reach the wall on the right from its starting position. One way to do this is to use a variable which I will name number_of_steps and give it an initial value of 0. Then, each time that Reeborg takes a step, I will add 1 to the previous value of number_of_steps.

Simple enough?

Before I write a Python program to do just that, let’s do an experiment.

Try this!

Run the following program:

n = 1
n = n + 3

What did you see? Then, try running the following:

a = a + 3

Very different result, isn’t it?

In computer programming, the action of changing the value of a variable so that it increases is called incrementing a variable. When the variable decreases, we use the verb decrement instead.

6.1. Understanding increments

Remember when we saw variables and the assignment operator =. A variable is a name given to an object so that we can refer to it using that name. The basic form is:

variable = object

One example we gave before was:

length = 4
width = 6
area = length * width  # area of a rectangle
print(area)            # will output 24

To figure out what object area refers to, Python needs to replace the variables length and width by the object they refer to:

area = 4 * 6

However, 4 * 6 is still not an object: it is the product of two objects. So Python needs to do some more work and get:

area = 24

Now, we truly have an equation with a name (variable) on the left-hand side of the assignment operator =, and an object (24) on the right hand-side. Let’s go back to the previous example:

n = 1
n = n + 3

Having the same variable name n appearing on both sides of the assignment operator does not change the logic: first we find out which single object is meant on the right-hand side, and only then do we assign a name to it. Thus, the line of code:

n = 1

instructs Python that whenever we write n we mean it to be thought of as 1. The next line of code is:

n = n + 3

This is clearly not a standard mathematical operation! Remember, we just saw that the assignment operator tells Python to assign a new name to an object. Here, the object is obtained via:

n + 3

We’ve already instructed Python that we want n to refer to 1. Thus n + 3 should be thought of as 1 + 3. Python knows how to add integers, and it can replace this sum of two integers by a single one: 4. Thus, n + 3 refers to the object 4, and the line of code:

n = n + 3

really means:

n = 4

And this line can be thought of as telling Python whatever n meant before, forget about it, and think of it as meaning 4 from now on.

What about a = a + 3? Python first looks at the right hand side a + 3, finds a variable a which has not been assigned to any object before, so it doesn’t know what to do with it, and lets us know by giving an error message.

Counting steps

It is time to have Reeborg count the number of steps needed to reach the wall in front of him in world Around 1. Do this with the following program:

number_of_steps = 0

while front_is_clear():
    number_of_steps = number_of_steps + 1


Your turn

Have Reeborg go all the way once around world Around 1. Along the way, Reeborg should could the number of steps and the number of left turns, printing both of these values at the end. Important Do this without defining your own functions.

6.2. Augmented assignment operators

In Python programs, we often need to do something like:

number_of_steps = number_of_steps + 1


pizza_slices = pizza_slices - 2

Not only this is long to write, but it also does not respect Rule # 3: Do not repeat yourself, since we have the same variable name written twice on the same line. There is a shorter way to write such lines of code which avoid repetitions, using what are known as augmented assignment operators.

We can rewrite the above lines of code as:

number_of_steps += 1
pizza_slices -= 2

For each mathematical operator, +, -, /, //, *, **, there is a corresponding augmented assignment operator +=, -=, /=, //=, *=, **=.


When using augmented assignment operators, do not leave a space between the different symbols. Thus, write += and not +  =.

Your turn

Have Reeborg go all the way once around world Around 1. Along the way, Reeborg should could the number of steps and the number of left turns, printing both of these values at the end. This time, use augmented assignment operators.

6.3. Back to the yard work?

At the end of the previous lesson, you were left with a task for Reeborg that couldn’t be done because you couldn’t use carries_object(). While you now know how to keep track of the number of leaves picked up by Reeborg, there are two more programming concepts we must learn so that Reeborg can accomplish his task. We will do this in the following two sections.