This is the first part of a two-part paper which introduces a general schema theory for genetic programming (GP) with subtree-swapping crossover. The theory is based on a Cartesian node reference system which makes it possible to describe programs as functions over the space N2 and allows one to model the process of selection of the crossover points of subtree-swapping crossovers as a probability distribution over N4. In Part I, we present these notions and models and show how they can be used to calculate useful quantities. In Part II we will show how this machinery, when integrated with other definitions, such as that of variable-arity hyperschema, can be used to construct a general and exact schema theory for the most commonly used types of GP

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