Intro to Python 2: Lists & Dictionaries

Week 1 | Lesson 1.4


After this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Create lists and operate on them
  • Create dictionaries and operate on them


Before this lesson, you should already be able to:

  • Define/describe/explain a list and a dictionary


Code Along

Dict Practice List Practice Bonus Starter


10 min Introduction Lists and dictionaries
25 min Demo / Guided Practice Lists
10 min Independent Practice Lists
25 min Demo / Guided Practice Dictionaries
10 min Independent Practice Dictionaries
10 min Conclusion

Introduction: Lists and dictionaries (10 mins)

Lists are lists of arbitrary items in python.

Lists are:

  • expressed with square brackets: [ ]
  • indexed starting at 0
  • "mutable", meaning they can be modified such as appended to
  • can contain any type of python type
  • can contain a mixture of types


numbers = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]
letters = ['a','b','c','d']
mixture = ['hi',12.13,1,(1,2),['a','b','c']]

Dictionaries contain multiple items, like lists, but are organized in key:value pairs

Dictionaries are:

  • expressed with curly brackets: { }
  • follow the pattern: {key1:value1, key2:value2, ...}
  • indexed by their keys rather than numeric index
  • are mutable
  • can contain mixtures of key and value types


telephone_nums = {'john':5103315523, 'andrew':4156678890}
lists = {0:[1,2,3], 1:[4,5,6]}
mixture = {'animals':['dog','cat'], 1:2, empty_dicts:{'a':{}, 'b':{}}}

Lists and Dictionaries

Demo / Guided Practice: Lists (25 mins)

In nearly all cases lists are preferable to tuples because we can change their values. Let's practice creating and modifying python lists

Creating lists

Lists are defined like tuples. Say you have 5 friends called Curly, Moe, Larry, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb. Create a list named "friends" with the 5 friends.

Lists can be assigned to variables. Make the list of friends and assign it to a variable named "friends"

L-1: make a list with the 5 friends ```python friends = ['Curly', 'Moe', 'Larry', 'Tweedle Dee', 'Tweedle Dumb'] print(friends) ['Curly', 'Moe', 'Larry', 'Tweedle Dee', 'Tweedle Dumb'] ```

Recall that lists are indexed with integers.

L-2: print the 3rd item of the friends list ```python print(friends[2]) Larry ```

You can use two indices separated by a colon to access a range of elements within a list. For example: my_list[0:5] would print out the first 5 elements of my_list.

L-3: print the 3rd thru 5th elements of the friends list ```python print(friends[2:5]) ['Larry', 'Tweedle Dee', 'Tweedle Dumb'] ```

Modifying lists

Lists have pre-defined functions which are very useful for manipulating them. The build in functions of list work in place, meaning that you do not have to assign the result to a new variable.

The .append() function will add an element to the end of a list. Use the function like: [...].append(item)

L-4: add 'Samwise' to the end of the friends list using .append() ```python friends.append('Samwise') print(friends) ['Curly', 'Moe', 'Larry', 'Tweedle Dee', 'Tweedle Dumb', 'Sam'] ```

You can also combine lists by simply adding them together with the + operator.

L-5: add the list ['Bob', 'Joe'] to the friends list ```python friends = friends + ['Bob', 'Joe'] print(friends) ['Curly', 'Moe', 'Larry', 'Tweedle Dee', 'Tweedle Dumb', 'Sam', 'Bob', 'Joe'] ```

The .remove() function can remove an specific element of a list, and the del command will remove the item of a list at a specific index. For example, del my_list[2] removes the 3rd element of my_list.

L-6: remove 'Sam' from the list with the .remove() function ```python friends.remove(3) print(friends) ['Curly', 'Moe', 'Larry', 'Tweedle Dumb', 'Bob', 'Joe'] ```
L-7: remove the first element of friends using del ```python del friends[0] print(friends) ['Moe', 'Larry', 'Tweedle Dumb', 'Bob', 'Joe'] ```

More information about lists

Independent Practice: Lists (10 minutes)

Explore the built in functions of lists:

  • use .append(item) to add item to a list
  • use .extend([item1, item2]) to join another list to the end of the list
  • use .insert(index, item) to add an item to a list at an index
  • use .remove(item) to remove an item from a list
  • use .sort() to sort a list
  • use .count(item) to count the number of times an item appears in a list
  • use .index(item) to find the index of an element in a list
  • use .pop() to extract (and remove) the last element of a list
  • use .reverse() to reverse a list

Demo / Guided Practice: Dictionaries (25 mins)

Dictionaries are useful when you want to associate items with a specific reference, or key. An example of this would be storing phone numbers of your friends with the key values as your friends' names.

Remember that dictionaries are created with curly brackets, using {key:value, key2:value2} syntax.

One potentially confusing aspect of dictionaries is that although they are created with the curly brackets { }, accessing a value with a key is done using square brackets [ ], for example: my_dict['key'] returns the value for "key" in my_dict.

Making and using dictionaries

Dictionaries are created the same as lists, with assignment to a variable. Create a dictionary called "zipcodes" with the following district:zip code pairs:

'sunset':94122 'presidio':94129 'soma':94105 'marina':94123

D-1: Create the SF district dictionary ```python zipcodes = {'sunset':94122, 'presidio':94129, 'soma':94105, 'marina':94123} print(zipcodes) {'soma': 94105, 'presidio': 94129, 'sunset': 94122, 'marina': 94123} ```

As you can see, when you print the dictionary, the key:value pairs are not guaranteed to be ordered the way you entered them like a list.

Values for a key can be accessed using the square bracket [ ] syntax or with the .get() method.

D-2: access the zip code for soma and assign it to a variable ```python soma = zipcodes['soma'] print(soma) 94105 ```

You can list the current keys in a dictionary with the .keys() function. The keys will be returned in a list.

D-3: print out a list of the keys in zipcodes using .keys() ```python zipcodes.keys() ['soma', 'presidio', 'sunset', 'marina'] ```

The .items() function will create a list of tuples, where each of the tuples in the list is a key:value pair in the dictionary.

D-4: print out a list of the key:value pairs in zipcodes using .items() ```python zipcodes.items() [('soma', 94105), ('presidio', 94129), ('castro', 94114), ('marina', 94123)] ```

Modifying dictionaries

Adding new key:value pairs to a dictionary is similar to how you access an existing entry. The syntax for adding a new entry is: my_dict['new_key'] = new_value.

D-5: add 'castro':94114 to the zipcodes dictionary ```python zipcodes['castro'] = 94114 print(zipcodes) {'soma': 94105, 'presidio': 94129, 'sunset': 94122, 'castro': 94114, 'marina': 94123} ```

Removing a dictionary key:value pair can be done with the del command, like with a list, or with the .pop() function which will remove a key from the dictionary and return the value for that key.

D-6: remove the sunset zipcode with .pop() and assign it to a variable ```python sunset = zipcodes.pop('sunset') print(sunset) 94122 ```

Independent Practice: Dictionaries (10 minutes)

Build your own dictionary with key:value pairs of your choosing.

Explore some of the built in functions for dictionaries:

  • use .pop(key) to remove a key:value pair from the dictionary and return the value
  • use .get(key) to get the value for a key
  • use .has_key(key) to check if a key is in the dictionary
  • use .keys() to get a list of the keys in the dictionary
  • use .items() to get a list of the key:value pairs in the dictionary
  • use .update(other_dictionary) to merge a 2nd dictionary into the current dictionary
  • use .clear() to remove all key:value pairs from the dictionary

Conclusion (10 mins)

  • Partner up and explain what a list and a dictionary are to your partners
  • What are the differences between a list and a dictionary?
  • What are the two things you need for a dictionary?

Bonus Challenges

Once you've mastered the basics, further your understanding of Python by attempting "Alternate Code Challenges 2".

results matching ""

    No results matching ""