Higher Order Functions & Currying


  • What’s the definition of a Higher Order Function?
  • What’s the definition of a Curried function?
  • When have we been using HOF’s already?
  • Live code some HOF’s and Curried functions
  • Write some curried functions as a class

Learning Goals

Understanding of:

  • Currying
  • Higher order functions
  • Potential uses


  • Curry
  • Higher Order Functions
  • First class citizens

First, lets see what you can find out

Before you go any further, lets practice our documentation searching skills. Using whatever docs you can find, come up with a definition for what you think a Higher Order Function is, and what you think a curried function is.

Higher Order Functions

Higher Order Functions are a cool pattern in JavaScript that we haven’t yet encountered. Most simply, a Higher Order Function is a regular JavaScript function. However, its defining characteristics are that it takes other functions as arguments and/or it may return another function. You’ve already encountered Higher Order Functions actually, you just didn’t realize it. Every time you pass a callback function, you’re using a HOF. Let’s look at an example:

const add = (num1, num2) => {
  return num1 + num2

const subtract = (num1, num2) => {
  return num1 - num2

const compute = (operation, num1, num2) => {
  return operation(num1, num2)

compute(add, 5, 2) //=> returns 7
compute(subtract, 5, 2) //=> returns 3

In this case, our compute function is a Higher Order Function, because its takes a function as one of its parameters.

First Class Citizens

In JavaScript we say that functions are ‘First Class Citizens’. What do we mean by this? Take five minutes to read whatever blog posts or docs you can find, and we’ll come back to discuss as a class.


Curried functions are a special flavor of Higher Order Functions. When we curry a function, we break down it’s arguments into a series of chained functions. Consider the following multiplication function:

const multiply = (x, y) => x * y

multiply(3, 2) //=> returns 6

Alternatively, we could represent this as a curried function:

const multiply = x => y => x * y

const triple = multiply(3) //=> triple is now a function as well

triple(2) //=> returns 6
triple(3) //=> returns 9

This gives our multiply function more reusability than it would otherwise have. Obviously this is a somewhat contrived example, but this is a common pattern in functional programming.

Lets get our hands dirty

Open up this Repl and fork it to your own account. On your own, spend 15 minutes working on the first problem. We’ll do some show and tell once you’re done. Then, in pairs, work through the second problem for another 15 minutes, and we’ll do the same thing.

Ok, but when will I use this?

You’ve already been using Higher Order Functions anytime you use map, filter or reduce. Think about how these array prototype methods take in a callback function and their first argument - that makes them higher order functions! It’s unlikely you’ve done much, if any, currying. However, as previously mentioned, it’s a favorite pattern in functional programming. If you’re interested in learning more about functional programming, this article is a great starting point.

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