A Change in the Making

I know that I rag on the educational system a lot, but really, is it so unjustified? My father-in-law gave me yet another example of a true success story the other day.

It seems that my in-laws had stopped at a deli, and ordered a sandwich, side, and a drink, to split. The cashier punched in whatever she needed to, to arrive at a total bill of $9.52. My father-in-law is old school, and learned how to do maths back in the day. He found a Ten Dollar bill in his wallet, and handed her that, then said, “Wait a minute,” while he fished in his pocket for change. Before he could locate the change, she’d rung up the Ten Dollars, and the cash register was now telling her to return $.48 to him.

Being a good little obeyer, as is the wont these days, she retrieved Forty-eight cents from the cash drawer. Okay, now here is where it gets complicated. By this time, my FIL had located two pennies, and set them on the counter. The cashier (I use this term loosely) stared at the pennies for a moment, then her face brightened. She counted out Forty-six cents, and held it out to my FIL, who couldn’t help but chuckle in disbelief.

Being a polite sort, instead of saying what was on his mind, he merely inquired how she had come up with that amount. She said, “I took off the two cents.” I know, I know. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

He gently said, “That’s not right, you know.” The blank look on her face cluing him in, he said, “Let’s start over.” He took back the Ten, pushed all of the change except his two cents back her way, then said, “If I give you Ten Dollars,” handing it to her, “plus two cents,” dropping them into her palm, “that totals $10.02. $10.02 minus your bill of $9.52 equals Fifty cents. You owe me Fifty cents, not Forty-six.”

By this time, her eyes had glazed over, and she was clearly simply waiting for instructions. When she heard Fifty cents, she was relieved. She picked up the two dimes and the three pennies that were lying on the counter (fortunately, somewhere along the way she had learned to count change), and added a quarter to the one left there.

“Did you see how that worked?” My FIL asked, intent on not cheating either himself or her. She merely smiled. The cash register had told her one thing, he had told her another, but even though she had not learned higher math in school, she had learned the more important lesson that the customer is always right. And I guess that’s got to be good enough, these days. Let’s just hope that somehow the people who will be programming our computers get the chance to be introduced to some math along the way.

1 Comment

Filed under Critical Thinking, Education

One response to “A Change in the Making

  1. For those of us “old schoolers” … if you don’t use it (mental math), you do lose it.

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