Decomposition in practice

We do many tasks on a daily basis without even thinking about – or decomposing – them, such as brushing our teeth.

Example 1: Brushing our teeth

To decompose the problem of how to brush our teeth, we would need to consider:

  • which toothbrush to use
  • how long to brush for
  • how hard to press on our teeth
  • what toothpaste to use

Example 2: Solving a crime

It is only normally when we are asked to do a new or more complex task that we start to think about it in detail – to decompose the task.

Imagine that a crime has been committed. Solving a crime can be a very complex problem as there are many things to consider.

For example, a police officer would need to know the answer to a series of smaller problems:

  • what crime was committed
  • when the crime was committed
  • where the crime was committed
  • what evidence there is
  • if there were any witnesses
  • if there have recently been any similar crimes

The complex problem of the committed crime has now been broken down into simpler problems that can be examined individually, in detail.

At a crime scene, the main problem can be broken down into smaller considerations such as time, evidence, location, witnesses, similarities and the crime committed.