2. The for Loop Revisited

Recall that the for loop processes each item in a list. Each item in turn is assigned to the loop variable — also called the iterator variable — and the body of the loop is executed. We saw this example in an earlier chapter.

We have also seen iteration and variable updating in the form of the accumulator pattern. For example, to compute the sum of the first n integers, we could create a for loop using the range function to produce the numbers 1 through n. Using the accumulator pattern, we can start with a running total variable initialized to 0 and on each iteration, add the current value of the loop variable to the total. A function to compute this sum is shown below.

To review, the variable sum is called the accumulator. It is initialized to zero before we start the loop. The loop variable, num will take on the values produced by the range(1, n+1) function call. Note that this produces all the integers from 1 up to the value of n. If we had not added 1 to n, the range would have stopped one value short since range does not include the upper bound in the returned list.

The assignment statement, sum = sum + num, updates sum each time through the loop. This accumulates the running total. Finally, we return the value of the accumulator.