Constructing a trace table can be a useful way to self-verify your code. Trace tables are also useful in peer review.
The idea behind a trace table is to show all the state changes that occur during each possible path through a prime. This is another reason to keep the pieces of your design small: large, complex pieces have more possible execution paths.
To build a trace table, examine your intended functions and
note the set of state items that appear on the left sides
of the “
:=”. Each row of the
trace table corresponds to one state item. Each column
represents a point in time. Each cell of the table, then,
shows the value of a state item at a given point in one
path through the prime.
Here is a very simple example. First, the code, a sequence of two primes. We number the primes for convenience in referring to them in the trace table.
#-- 1 # [ ally := integers from 1 to n inclusive # gumCount := gumCount + 1 ] ally = range(1, n+1) gumCount += 1 #-- 2 # [ somey := even elements of ally ] somey = [ k for k in ally if k%2 == 0 ]
Three state items appear on the left side of “
somey. So our trace
table will have three rows. The table will have two
columns: one column for the state after prime  and
another column for the state after prime .
Filling in the trace table for this example. is straightforward. We examine the intended function for each prime. For each state item that changes, we enter the new state in the column for that prime. Describing the new state is another writing task: you may describe it algebraically, or in prose, or in any mixture of the two.
Here is the trace table after prime 1.
|State item||After |
Our description of the new state of
more modern math than Python: we use the notation
[1,n] to mean a closed interval that uses the
endpoints, and we use the term “
int” to mean integers, figuring that anyone who
reviews this code had better know Python at least that
well. Know your audience: write your state descriptions so
that your peer reviewers can understand them, given that
they know the language and they are going to be looking at
the code at the same time.
The new state for
gumCount depends on the
previous state, which is outside the scope of this code
sequence. The expression “
gumCount+1” means, whatever
gumCount had in it
when we started, it is one larger now.
Moving on to prime , we'll need to add a new row to the
table for the new state item (
changes. Here is the final table.
|State item||After ||After |
For each of the four basic branch structures, there is a corresponding rule for constructing the trace table.
The construction of the trace table for a sequence of two
A followed by
B, is straightforward, as
demonstrated in Section 8, “Trace tables”.
There is one additional consideration. The second prime,
B, must be reachable. If prime
A contains one of the forms described in
Section 5.5.1, “Terminal special forms”, then clearly
B can never execute.
This is a red flag for peer reviewers.