Map and Reduce Functions in Javascript

Functions like map and reduce are very useful, we can use them to extract values from lists. Nowadays these functions are available in the most recent browsers, but have you ever thought about how to implement them?

So, that’s the idea. Let’s see how to do it in a functional way, in other words, let’s do that using recursion and high order functions. As the post title suggest, the following example will be created in Javascript. :)

At first we’re creating a function called each. We’ll use it to iterate over a list, apply a function and then generate an accumulator. If done it correctly, we will be able to abstract out complex parts of our algorithm, replace it with a function call and keep code condensed and readable.

So let’s see the function:

var each = function(head, tail, acc, fn) {
  if (head != null) acc = fn(acc, head);
  if (tail == null) return acc;

  var _head = tail.length > 0 ? tail[0] : null;
  var _tail = tail.length > 1 ? tail.slice(1, tail.length) : null;
  return each(_head, _tail, acc, fn);

Okay, now we can create our map function. Basically a map function is a function that applies a given function to each element of a list and then returning another list of results.

It’s our map function:

var map = function(list, transformFn) {
  return each(null, list, [], function(acc, head) {
    acc[acc.length] = transformFn(head);
    return acc;

See, it’s not a big deal. We use the each function to iterate over the list and replace each list value by the result of transform function. So how can we use it? Let’s transform (multiply each value by 2) a simple array of numbers.

var array = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5];
var multiplyFn = function(n) {
  return n * 2;

console.log(map(array, multiplyFn));
//[2, 4, 6, 8, 10]

And now the last one function called reduce. Different from map function, this one returns only one value with an initial value predefined that is the result of a combine function executed recursively over each element of the list. See the following function:

var reduce = function(list, initalValue, combineFn) {
  return each(null, list, initalValue, function(acc, head) {
    return combineFn(acc, head);

As an usage example, let’s think up a shopping cart with some items. We’ll need to calculate the total order to show it up at the checkout page.

var Item = function(_description, _price) {
  this.description = function() { return _description; };
  this.price = function() { return _price; };

var shoppingCart = [
  new Item("iPhone 6", 749.00),
  new Item("The Amazing Spider-Man Hero FX Glove", 14.24),
  new Item("Playstation 4", 399.00)

var sumFn = function(total, item) {
  return total + item.price();

console.log(reduce(shoppingCart, 0, sumFn));

As can be seen, functions like map and reduce are great to transform and/or combine lists, and functional programming is good to abstract out complex algorithms.

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