Informatics 1: Functional Programming


This is a taught course in the School of Informatics suitable for first-year undergraduate students (SCQF level 8). The course teaches the basics of functional programming using the language Haskell. The main goal is to acquaint the student with fundamental programming concepts such as recursion, abstraction, higher-order functions and data types, whilst at the same time emphasizing the practical use of such constructs by applying them within a graphical environment. For further details see the course catalogue entry.

Informatics 1: Functional Programming is part of Informatics 1, the first-year programme for all undergraduate degrees in the School of Informatics. During semester 1, students should also be taking Informatics 1: Computation & Logic.

Lectures · Exercises · Tutorials · Advanced Tutorial · Labs · Videos · Forum
Books · Haskell · Exams · Feedback · Contact · Competition

Slides and reading: Here are the annotated slides and code examples for each lecture. The pages in the two course textbooks that correspond to each lecture are indicated.

Week Subject Annotated slides, videos, code etc. Reading in Thompson / Lipovača
1. Introduction. Functions.
Three FP lectures this week!
Monday slides / video (Functional Programming is Black Magic, Land of Lisp music video)
Tuesday slides / video / code
Friday slides / video / code
Sects. 1.2-11,1.14; 2.1,2.3-4,2.7; 3.2-3,3.7; 5.5-6 /
pp. xv-13, 15-18, 23-26
2. Lists, comprehensions, recursion
Three FP lectures this week!
Monday slides (continuing from Friday) / video (audio missing after 27:00) / code
Tuesday slides / video / code
Friday slides (continuing from Tuesday), more slides / video / code
Sects. 3.1, 3.4-5; 4.1-2, 4.4-5, 4.7; 5.2; 6.2; 7.1-5; 17.1-2, 17.6 /
pp. 10-14, 18-22, 35-45, 51-58
3. More fun with recursion
Just one FP lecture this week!
Monday slides (continuing from Friday), more slides / video / code Catch up with the reading!
4. Map, filter, fold Monday slides (continuing from last Monday), more slides / video (audio very quiet) / code, more code
Tuesday slides / video / code
Sects 10.1-4; 11.4 /
pp. 59-71, 73-78
5. No FP lectures this week!
But tutorials as usual
Catch up with the reading!
6. CLASS TEST on Monday
Algebraic data types
Tuesday slides / video / code Sects 4.3; 5.1, 5.3 /
pp. 109-113, 127-130
7. Expression trees, lambda, sections Monday slides (continuing from last Tuesday), more slides / code, more code
Tuesday slides (continuing from week 4), more slides / code
Sects 11.1-3; 14.2-4 /
pp. 59-63, 71-73, 80-85, 96-97, 117-119, 121-122,130-135

Lectures: During Semester 1

  • 14:10–15:00 Mondays in George Square Theatre
  • 11:10–12:00 Tuesdays in Appleton Tower, Lecture Theatre 5

except for the following swaps with Inf1-CL:

  • Week 1: Inf1-FP Fri 23 Sep (14:10–15:00, AT LT4) instead of Inf1-CL
  • Week 2: Inf1-FP Fri 30 Sep (14:10–15:00, AT LT4) instead of Inf1-CL
  • Week 3: Inf1-CL Tue 4 Oct instead of Inf1-FP
  • Week 5: Inf1-CL Mon 17 Oct and Tue 18 Oct instead of Inf1-FP
  • Week 11: Inf1-FP Fri 2 Dec (14:10–15:00, AT LT4) instead of Inf1-CL

(To keep up with these swaps it is probably easiest to just refer to the list of lectures here under Course Activities.)

You are very strongly advised to attend all lectures.

Link: Lecture locations.

Exercises: Tutorial exercises are published here at least a week before the corresponding tutorial. This work does not contribute towards your mark for the course but it is absolutely essential for your understanding of the material.

You can discuss your work on these exercises with other students, and ask questions on the course discussion forum. If you are having difficulties, drop in to the lab when a demonstrator is on duty. Or go to InfBase, the Informatics student help desk.

The CamlBack system, hosted at UCLA, can provide automated feedback on most of your tutorial exercises. It may help you to make better progress on the exercises before your tutorial but it is not a substitute for tutorial attendance. CamlBack is still under development and for some kinds of exercises the feedback will be more helpful than for others.

Warning: this year, tutorial 6 is the one marked tutorial 7 on CamlBack and tutorial 7 is the one marked tutorial 6 on CamlBack.

Link: CamlBack (select language Haskell and login as guest); notes on CamlBack.

Tutorials: These start in week 3 and take place each week until the end of semester, except for week 10. If you are ill or otherwise unable to attend one week then email your tutor, and if possible attend another tutorial group in the same week.

Some tutorial groups are designated as "beginner friendly". Students who have no programming experience, or who are less confident, may wish to request allocation to these. There will be a beginner-friendly tutorial in each tutorial timeslot so timetabling conflicts should not prevent anybody from switching into, or out of, a beginner-friendly tutorial.

All tutorial groups will cover the same tutorial exercises but the beginner-friendly tutorials will proceed more carefully, as required by the students in the group, to make sure that all students are keeping up. The tutorials that are not labelled as beginner-friendly will tend to proceed more quickly.

Link: Tutorial group times, places and membership.

If you wish to move to a different tutorial group, or your name is not on the list, please use this form to notify the ITO. Indicate which of the tutorial timeslots are impossible for you, and whether or not you want to be assigned to a beginner-friendly tutorial. Or visit the ITO on level 1 of Forrest Hill.

Students are expected to prepare for each tutorial, which includes completing the tutorial exercises and the reading.

You must attempt the work before the tutorial and bring with you a copy of the work you have done. Tutorials are mandatory, and the only way to learn is to do the work before the tutorial, not at the tutorial. Students who have not done the work in advance may be sent away. Programming is not a spectator sport!

Advanced Tutorial: There will be an extra drop-in tutorial starting in week 4 for students who would like to go beyond what will be covered in the normal tutorials. This tutorial is for you if you had no significant trouble solving the non-optional exercises and have made a serious attack on at least the first of the optional exercises. This is in addition to and separate from your normal tutorial session and tutorial exercises!

If you decide to attend, then you should bring your solutions to the tutorial exercise with you!

Labs: Most of the workstations in Forrest Hill room 1.B30 are reserved for Inf1-FP for a few hours every weekday. Follow signs from the Forrest Hill stairs to "Drill Hall Computers" and sit in the block of desks that is straight ahead as you come into the room. A lab demonstrator will be available at the times indicated to assist with the coursework.

Reserved for Inf1-FP Demonstrator available
Mondays 3:10–5:00pm 3:10–4:00pm
Tuesdays 2:10–5:00pm 3:10–4:00pm
Wednesdays 2:10–5:00pm 3:10–4:00pm
Thursdays 2:10–5:00pm 3:10–4:00pm
Fridays 3:10–5:00pm 3:10–4:00pm

Every student should attend the lab during week 2 in order to complete the lab exercise. Please go on the day indicated in the list below. If you have a conflict, just go on a different day in week 2 - no need to inform anybody. After week 2, the labs are run on a drop-in basis and you can go as often as you like.

Link: Lab assignments during week 2

Videos: Recordings of lectures are available via links in the list of lectures above. These recordings supplement lectures by allowing you to review the material presented and revise for the exam.

Links: Some video lectures from Microsoft on Haskell; Introduction to Functional Programming using Haskell: MOOC by Erik Meijer

Forum: Piazza provides an online forum for Inf1-FP in which you can post questions and answers on anything related to the course. (We started using Ask but have now moved to Piazza.) The course lecturer, teaching assistant, tutors and demonstrators will also read and answer questions.

Links: Piazza course page; Piazza signup

Books: You will need one of the following textbooks:

Section/page references in both books that correspond roughly to the lectures are given above. Read at least these. It would be better to read more than these pages, to get the context and to understand related concepts. If you find a topic in one of the books hard to understand, try the other one.

All of the following books were also written for beginning students, and may provide a useful alternative perspective.


  • If you are using your own machine, we recommend that you download and install the "Haskell Platform" from here and Emacs from here. Instructions about how to install Haskell mode in Emacs are here; the haskell-setup.txt file referred to is here. More detailed instructions for some aspects of this are provided in the "Get You Installed a Haskell" handout and a tip for fixing a common problem with the interaction between Emacs and Haskell is here. Haskell mode is already installed in Emacs on DICE but it is not currently installed in Emacs on the open access Windows machines.
  • If you can't get these things working on your own machine, one option is remote access to DICE, where everything works, using an ssh client or NX. Or install DICE on a virtual machine. Finally, the university's Information Services department run free Mobile Device Clinics that offer help installing software on Windows and Mac OS X laptops.
  • has everything you could possibly want to know about Haskell, including the definition of the language, a list of books on the subject, links to conferences/workshops, various libraries, and more! Have a look at "A Gentle Introduction to Haskell".
  • Documentation of Haskell's predefined functions is in HackageDB, which also includes documentation on the rest of the Haskell library. The library can conveniently be searched using Hoogle.
  • Some handy functions that will be used in the tutorial exercises are listed here.

Examinations: Assessment for Inf1-FP is done through two exams.

  • The class test is a 35-minute closed-book hand-written exam held on Monday of week 6 in place of the lecture. The class test contributes 10% towards the final mark for the course. Your marked paper will be returned to you in your week 7 tutorial.
    Link: class test (solutions)
  • There is a 2-hour open-book mock programming exam during week 11NEW! as practice for the final exam; it does not contribute towards the final mark for the course.
  • The final exam is an 2-hour open-book programming exam held on 20th December in the computer labs in Forrest Hill. It is held in two sittings (9:30–11:30 and 14:30–16:30) and each student will be allocated one sitting by the ITO. You must attend your allocated sitting and only that sitting. The final exam contributes 90% towards the final mark for the course.

Links: past papers; instructions for programming exam; marks and grades.

Feedback will be provided on all of your work, with the exception of the final exam.

  • Tutorial exercises (formative): feedback is given orally on your attempts at tutorial exercises during your tutorial. On some exercises, automated feedback is available online from the CamlBack system.
  • Class test: this will be marked and returned to you in your tutorial in week 7. The numerical scores are accompanied by brief written feedback in cases where your solution is deficient.
  • Mock exam (formative): this will be marked by computer and the result returned to you during week 11 as an approximate indication of your performance. (The final exam will be marked by a human, using this automated testing as the starting point.)

Contact: The course lecturer is Don Sannella and the course teaching assistant is Karoliina Lehtinen. The best time to speak to Don is at the end of a lecture, or come to his weekly Inf1-FP office hour before the Tuesday lecture:

  • Tuesday 10-11am, Informatics Forum room 5.12

If contacting Don or Karoliina by email please use your University address. Much better is to ask your question on Piazza since usually other students will have the same question. Questions sent by email will be re-posted on Piazza if the answer may be of interest to other students.

Programming Competition: Each year the course concludes with a programming competition, with an actual prize draw and first prize sponsored by software company Galois. The competition centers round the drawing of fractal-based images. This provides students with an excellent opportunity to show off the skills they have learned during the course, and to set loose their creativity in an unconstrained environment. Every year students have gone on to amaze the course organizers—and themselves—with ingenious and beautiful drawings and fractals, and this year is certainly not going to be different.

Links: Entries from 2015; 2014; 2013; 2012; 2011; 2010; 2009; 2008; 2007; 2006; 2005.

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