Exercise 4: Variables And Names

Now you can print things with print and you can do math. The next step is to learn about variables. In programming a variable is nothing more than a name for something so you can use the name rather than the something as you code. Programmers use these variable names to make their code read more like English, and because they have lousy memories. If they didn't use good names for things in their software, they'd get lost when they tried to read their code again.

If you get stuck with this exercise, remember the tricks you have been taught so far of finding differences and focusing on details:

  1. Write a comment above each line explaining to yourself what it does in English.
  2. Read your .py file backwards.
  3. Read your .py file out loud saying even the characters.
cars = 100
space_in_a_car = 4.0
drivers = 30
passengers = 90
cars_not_driven = cars - drivers
cars_driven = drivers
carpool_capacity = cars_driven * space_in_a_car
average_passengers_per_car = passengers / cars_driven

print "There are", cars, "cars available."
print "There are only", drivers, "drivers available."
print "There will be", cars_not_driven, "empty cars today."
print "We can transport", carpool_capacity, "people today."
print "We have", passengers, "to carpool today."
print "We need to put about", average_passengers_per_car, "in each car."


The _ in space_in_a_car is called an underscore character. Find out how to type it if you do not already know. We use this character a lot to put an imaginary space between words in variable names.

What You Should See

$ python ex4.py
There are 100 cars available.
There are only 30 drivers available.
There will be 70 empty cars today.
We can transport 120.0 people today.
We have 90 to carpool today.
We need to put about 3 in each car.

Extra Credit

When I wrote this program the first time I had a mistake, and python told me about it like this:

Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "ex4.py", line 8, in <module>
    average_passengers_per_car = car_pool_capacity / passenger
NameError: name 'car_pool_capacity' is not defined

Explain this error in your own words. Make sure you use line numbers and explain why.

Here's more extra credit:

  1. Explain why the 4.0 is used instead of just 4.
  2. Remember that 4.0 is a "floating point" number. Find out what that means.
  3. Write comments above each of the variable assignments.
  4. Make sure you know what = is called (equals) and that it's making names for things.
  5. Remember _ is an underscore character.
  6. Try running python as a calculator like you did before and use variable names to do your calculations. Popular variable names are also i, x, and j.

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Exercise 5: More Variables And Printing

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