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?