This problem was asked by Jane Street.

cons(a, b) constructs a pair, and car(pair) and cdr(pair) returns the first and last element of that pair. For example, car(cons(3, 4)) returns 3, and cdr(cons(3, 4)) returns 4.

Given this implementation of cons:

def cons(a, b): def pair(f): return f(a, b) return pair Implement car and cdr.


The main difficulty with functional programming when you are used to object-oriented is that you don’t have clear names for things that are happening (try to explain to anyone what monad is).

Even if you never tried functional programming, it’s is possible to guess how python solution looks like. I will just put it and move to the next one in go.

def cons(a, b):
    def pair(f):
        return f(a, b)
    return pair

def car(f):
    def left(a, b):
        return a
    return f(left)

def cdr(f):
    def right(a, b):
        return b
    return f(right)


So most of the functional programming is about passing a behavior to a function.

When in the object-oriented paradigm you have and interface and two implementations, in functional you have a function (interface) that accepts another function (implementation) and calls it inside.

This particular problem is all about it.

We have cons - high order function that accepts two integers and returns another function, which accepts the third function that knows how to operate with this integers. Sounds crazy, but let’s try to give names to all these kinds of function.

First of all, we need to define choice, that knows how to pick one integer out of two.

The function that is returned by given implementation of cons I called makeChoice. This type of function knows what to do with given choice.

Given function cons constructs makeChoice function using input integers.

We should implement two functions that will apply two kinds of behavior using given makeChoice.

Now when we can name function types and understand what they do, it’s much easier to write the solution.


package main

import "fmt"

func main() {

        car := car(cons(3, 4))
        cdr := cdr(cons(3, 4))

        fmt.Printf("car: %d, cdr: %d\n", car, cdr)

type choise func(int, int) int

type makeChoise func(choise) int

func cons(a, b int) makeChoise {
        p := func(i choise) int {
                return i(a, b)
        return p

func car(do makeChoise) int {
        chooseRight := func(a, b int) int {
                return a
        return do(chooseRight)

func cdr(do makeChoise) int {
        chooseLeft := func(a, b int) int {
                return b
        return do(chooseLeft)