While in a meeting with some friends at the weekend we filled out a survey. It was one of those where you answer a set of questions by giving it a score (1 to 5), you then have to add up all of the scores a divide them by the number questions. This survey was in sets of 5 questions.

I filled in a the questionnaire, summed and divided. After a little while another person at the table, who was clearly struggling a bit with the maths said “oooh get you, working it out to the decimal place”.

It took me a little while to realise what was happening. They were struggling with their remainders, but I didn’t have any remainders, why? Because I was using a short-cut.

I was simply taking the sum of the answers, doubling them and then putting the decimal point in the right place – 17 divided by 5 is easy this way, it’s just 17 times 2 = 34 divided by 10 = 3.4.

That got me thinking about shortcuts in general.

We have shortcuts all over the place; keyboard shortcuts, maths shortcuts, we even have acronyms which are shortcuts in speech.

Calling them short-cuts suggest that in some way they aren’t normal. If you know a shortcut from Preston to Ribchester you’ve not going to go the normal way,

Why isn’t the shortcut the norm though?

Why would anyone divide 17 by 5 without using the shortcut?

Why would anyone cut and paste on a computer without the keyboard shortcut?

Why do we even teach people how to do things without the shortcut?

If it really is a shortcut then surely it’s the best way of doing it? Why bother learning how to go the long way around?

One thought on “Shortcuts”

  1. It’s a god point. Made me think as to why you actually need the “longcut”, but I guess they are needed for accessibility reasons too.

    My eldest daughter is increasingly being considered as the “geek” of her IT class because when she is doing her IT projects I do teach her the shortcuts, but as you say, teaching this should be the norm.


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