# Working with data

Imagine you are asked to compute the average of a list of numbers. But you need
to only take the average of the *positive* numbers, skipping over any that are
less than or equal to zero.

## First try

Here is one way to do that:

```
def average_positive(numbers):
"""
Take a list of numbers, and return the average of the
positive values in the list
"""
total = 0
n = 0
for number in numbers:
if number > 0:
total = total + number
n = n + 1
return total / n
# try it the first way
result = average_positive([-100, 1, 0, 2, 3])
print(result)
```

*Working with the data this way, we are going through the list one time and
doing all our calculations as we go through the list.*

TO do this, we need *two* variables that we use to compute the average. One is
`total`

, which we use to calculate the total of all of the positive numbers in
the `numbers`

list. The second is `n`

, which we use to count how many numbers
are positive.

We increment both `total`

and `n`

only for the positive numbers. We increment
`total`

with `number`

, and we increment `n`

with `1`

.

If you are confused by this code, copy it into PyCharm and run it through the
debugger. Step through each line of `average_position()`

and notice how `total`

,
`n`

, and `number`

change values over time.

## Second try

Here is another way to do this problem:

```
def only_positives(numbers):
"""
Take a list of numbers and return a NEW list that has
only the positive numbers from the original list.
"""
new_list = []
for number in numbers:
if number > 0:
new_list.append(number)
return new_list
def average_numbers(numbers):
"""
Take a list of numbers and average them.
"""
total = 0
for number in numbers:
total = total + number
return total / len(numbers)
def average_positive(numbers):
"""
Take a list of numbers, and return the average of the
positive values in the list
"""
# get a list of only the positive numbers
new_list = only_positives(numbers)
# average the list of numbers
average = average_numbers(new_list)
return average
result = average_positive2([-100, 1, 0, 2, 3])
print(result)
```

*In this case, we first use the original list of numbers to create a new list
that has only positive numbers. This is a filtering operation. Then once we have
a list of only positive numbers, we take the average of them. This is a reduce
operation.*

Thinking about a problem this way centers the *data* rather than the
*operations* on the data. The purpose of the code is to manipulate the data, one
step at a time, until we have the result we need.

You may want to use this way of solving the problem if you are going to need the
basic pieces — removing negative numbers, taking an average of a list of
numbers — many more times. For example, maybe you have a problem that requires
averaging all numbers, regardless of whether they are positive or negative. Our
`average_numbers()`

function works just fine for that. But if we used the first
solution, we would need to write some new code.

## The accumulator pattern

Both solutions to this problem show examples of using the `accumulator pattern`

to solve a problem. With this pattern, you initialize a variable to some value
(zero, an empty list), and then add to it (adding to a total, appending to the
list) in a loop.

In this class, you will practice these patterns repeatedly so they will become second-nature to you.