Array example query

Hi all,
Below is an example code to average ADC readings to smooth output, it works fine but I dont understand the role of this line? Why would I subtract the last reading every time I go through the loop?:

  // subtract the last reading:
  total = total - readings[readIndex];

  Reads repeatedly from an analog input, calculating a running average and
  printing it to the computer. Keeps ten readings in an array and continually
  averages them.

  The circuit:
  - analog sensor (potentiometer will do) attached to analog input 0

  created 22 Apr 2007
  by David A. Mellis  <>
  modified 9 Apr 2012
  by Tom Igoe

  This example code is in the public domain.

// Define the number of samples to keep track of. The higher the number, the
// more the readings will be smoothed, but the slower the output will respond to
// the input. Using a constant rather than a normal variable lets us use this
// value to determine the size of the readings array.
const int numReadings = 10;

int readings[numReadings];      // the readings from the analog input
int readIndex = 0;              // the index of the current reading
int total = 0;                  // the running total
int average = 0;                // the average

int inputPin = A0;

void setup() {
  // initialize serial communication with computer:
  // initialize all the readings to 0:
  for (int thisReading = 0; thisReading < numReadings; thisReading++) {
    readings[thisReading] = 0;

void loop() {
  // subtract the last reading:
  total = total - readings[readIndex];
  // read from the sensor:
  readings[readIndex] = analogRead(inputPin);
  // add the reading to the total:
  total = total + readings[readIndex];
  // advance to the next position in the array:
  readIndex = readIndex + 1;

  // if we're at the end of the array...
  if (readIndex >= numReadings) {
    // ...wrap around to the beginning:
    readIndex = 0;

  // calculate the average:
  average = total / numReadings;
  // send it to the computer as ASCII digits
  delay(1);        // delay in between reads for stability


Because in the following lines it's replaced by the actual reading.
NewTotal = OldTotal - oldestValue + newValue

It's not really "the last reading". It's "the OLDEST reading" in the circular buffer. To get the moving average you need the sum of all of the values in the buffer. Rather than add them all up each time an old value is replaced by a new value, we keep a total, subtract the oldest value (being replaced) and add the new value.

  for (int thisReading = 0; thisReading < numReadings; thisReading++) {
    readings[thisReading] = 0;

Please note that this code is redundant in this example; the buffer is already zeroed.

(memset would be more efficient anyway)

Thanks all, it makes perfect sense now!!