## Explanation

In this example, the goal is to average the last **n** columns in a set of data, where **n** is a variable entered in cell K5 that can be changed at any time. Since more data may be added, a key requirement is to average amounts *by ** position.* For convenience, the values to average are in the named range

**data**(C5:H16). In the latest version of Excel, the best way to solve this problem is with the TAKE function, a new dynamic array function in Excel. In Legacy Excel, you can use the OFFSET function or the INDEX function. All three approaches are explained below.

### TAKE function

The TAKE function returns a subset of a given array or range. The size of the array returned is determined by separate *rows* and *columns* arguments:

```
=TAKE(array,rows,columns)
```

When positive numbers are provided for *rows* or *columns*, TAKE returns values from the start of the array:

```
=TAKE(array,3) // get first 3 rows
=TAKE(array,,3) // get first 3 columns
```

When negative numbers are provided,* *TAKE returns values from the end of the array:

```
=TAKE(array,-3) // get last 3 rows
=TAKE(array,,-3) // get last 3 columns
```

In the worksheet shown, **data** is the named range C5:H16. We can retrieve the last 3 columns like this:

`=TAKE(data,,-3) // last 3 columns`

Notice we simply omit *rows* in this case because we want all rows in **data***. *To make the number of columns variable, we simply swap in the reference to J5 and add a negative sign:

`=TAKE(data,,-J5)`

Finally, to average the result from TAKE, we nest the TAKE function inside the AVERAGE function:

`=AVERAGE(TAKE(data,,-J5))`

With 3 in cell J5, TAKE returns the last 3 columns in **data**. This result is handed off to the AVERAGE function, which returns a final result of 8.42, the average of values in the range F5:H16.

### OFFSET function

In older versions of Excel, another way to solve this problem is to use the OFFSET function. The OFFSET function returns a reference to a range constructed with five inputs: (1) a starting point, (2) a row offset, (3) a column offset, (4) a height in rows, (5) a width in columns. To average the last 3 columns in the named range **data**, we can use the OFFSET function like this:

`=AVERAGE(OFFSET(data,0,COLUMNS(data)-J5,,J5))`

Inside the OFFSET function, we provide **data** for *reference* and 0 for *rows*, since we don't want any row offset. Next, we count the number of columns in data with the COLUMNS function and subtract the value for **n** in cell J5 to get a value for *cols*, the column offset. We leave *height* empty, because OFFSET will automatically inherit the height of *reference*, and we supply J5 for *width* since we want a 3-column range in the end. In this configuration, OFFSET returns a 3-column range starting at cell F5 in **data** containing all 12 rows.

*Note: the OFFSET function is a volatile function and can cause performance problems in larger or more complicated worksheets. If you run into this problem, see the INDEX solution below.*

### INDEX function

Another way to solve this problem is to use the versatile INDEX function in a formula like this:

`=AVERAGE(INDEX(data,0,COLUMNS(data)-(J5-1)):INDEX(data,0,COLUMNS(data)))`

The key to understanding this formula is to realize that the INDEX function can return a *reference* to entire rows and entire columns. To generate a reference to the "last n columns" in a table, we build a reference in two parts: the left column and the right column, then use the range operator (:) to join the two parts together:

`=AVERAGE(left:right)`

To get a reference to the *left* column, we use:

`INDEX(data,0,COLUMNS(data)-(J5-1))`

Since **data** contains 6 columns, the COLUMNS function returns 6, and this simplifies to:

```
INDEX(data,0,4) // column 4
```

INDEX returns a reference to column 4, F5:F16. For the *right* column in the range, we use INDEX like this:

```
INDEX(data,0,COLUMNS(data))
```

Since COLUMNS returns 6, this simplifies to:

```
INDEX(data,0,6) // column 6
```

INDEX returns a reference to column 6, H5:H16. Together, the two INDEX functions return a reference to columns 4 through 6 in the **data** (i.e. F5:H16). The range operator (:) joins the two references together, and the AVERAGE function returns a final result of 8.42.