Foundations

Function Basics

Foundations Course

Introduction

Things are about to get really exciting. So far you have been writing an impressive amount of code to solve various problems, but that code has not been as useful as it could be. Imagine taking one of your scripts and bundling it into a little package that you could use over and over again without having to rewrite or change the code. That’s the power of functions, and they’re used constantly in JavaScript.

Lesson overview

This section contains a general overview of topics that you will learn in this lesson.

  • How to define and invoke different kinds of functions.
  • How to use the return value.
  • What function scope is.

Functions

  1. This lengthy MDN article is a good place to start. Don’t worry as there may be some functions that can be beyond the reach of this particular lesson, but do pay special attention to the sections on ‘Function Scope’. Scope is a topic that commonly trips up both beginner and intermediate coders, so it pays to spend some time with it upfront. Note that this article also has its own exercises attached, which you should not do, as they involve knowledge we haven’t touched yet.
  2. Read this article about return values.
  3. Let’s discuss parameters and arguments in the context of the following example function:

      function favoriteAnimal(animal) {
        return animal + " is my favorite animal!"
      }
    
      console.log(favoriteAnimal('Goat'))
    

    In JavaScript, parameters are the items listed between the parentheses in the function declaration. Function arguments are the actual values we decide to pass to the function. In the example above, the function definition is written on the first line: function favoriteAnimal(animal). The parameter, animal, is found inside the parentheses. We could just as easily replace animal with pet, x, or blah. But in this case, naming the parameter animal gives someone reading our code a bit of context so that they don’t have to guess what animal may eventually contain. By putting animal inside the parentheses of the favoriteAnimal() function, we are telling JavaScript that we will send some value to our favoriteAnimal function. This means that animal is just a placeholder for some future value. But what value are we sending? The last line, favoriteAnimal('Goat'), is where we are calling our favoriteAnimal function and passing the value 'Goat' inside that function. Here, 'Goat' is our argument. We are telling the favoriteAnimal function, “Please send 'Goat' to the favoriteAnimal function and use 'Goat' wherever the ‘animal’ placeholder is.” Because of the flexibility that using a parameter provides, we can declare any animal to be our favorite.

    Make note of the fact that by calling favoriteAnimal() inside of console.log() with the argument 'Goat' we get the return value of the function, string of "Goat is my favorite animal!", printed to the console. We’re passing in a function call favoriteAnimal('Goat') as an argument in a different function call - log(). Keep this possibility in mind because you’ll be passing in function calls as arguments somewhat often. If we just called the function without console.logging what it returns, nothing would appear in the console but nonetheless the function would return that string.

    Feel free to experiment with the code on your own and replace 'Goat' with your favorite animal. Notice how we can change the argument to anything we like? Try changing animal in the function declaration and in the function body, too. What happens when you do?

  4. Next, read this article from JavaScript.info. We’ve mentioned this before, but JavaScript has changed a bit over the years and functions have recently received some innovation. This article covers one of the more useful new abilities: ‘default parameters’. (NOTE: The last “task” at the end of this lesson uses loops, which you will learn about in the next lesson. Don’t worry about that one.)
  5. Now, read this article about functions in JavaScript to give you a little more context, and read this article for an introduction to a relatively new feature in modern JavaScript called the arrow function. Arrow functions are useful but not crucial, so don’t worry about them too much just yet. We include them here because you are likely to encounter them as you move forward, and it’s better that you have at least some idea of what you’re looking at whenever they crop up.
  6. Finally, read this article about call stacks and how return works in the context of chained function calls. Don’t worry if you don’t fully understand this yet, but it’s important to keep in mind where your returned values are going. This doubles as a bit of early computer science as well.

Assignment

Let’s write some functions! Write these in the script tag of a skeleton HTML file. If you’ve forgotten how to set it up, review our instructions on how to run JavaScript code.

For now, just write each function and test the output with console.log.

  1. Write a function called add7 that takes one number and returns that number + 7.
  2. Write a function called multiply that takes 2 numbers and returns their product.
  3. Write a function called capitalize that takes a string and returns that string with only the first letter capitalized. Make sure that it can take strings that are lowercase, UPPERCASE or BoTh.
  4. Write a function called lastLetter that takes a string and returns the very last letter of that string:
    • lastLetter("abcd") should return "d"

Knowledge check

This section contains questions for you to check your understanding of this lesson on your own. If you’re having trouble answering a question, click it and review the material it links to.

Additional resources

This section contains helpful links to other content. It isn’t required, so consider it supplemental.

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