Saturday, November 01, 2008

Mental Arithmetic

I still have a list of things I want to get done today, and the end of today is looming - but you know that magnet that draws you to the keyboard to blog a gripe?

Young people today, hey?

ha ha - I am immediately transported back about (ahem) twenty years and shaking my head at my elders when they made such pronouncements.

But really? They had nothing to gripe about compared to some of the youth I have encountered today.

It is of course the week before (Red Wednesday, that is) and so I am inclined to be more gripey and less accomodating, but seriously?

It is the child's birthday on Monday, and therefore we got to fit a little more retail into our Saturday than usual, so I am prepared to lay my intolerance on either over-exposure to teenage checkout operators or just being over it.

But having a 16 year old tell me (in words of two syllable or less) that I was old to consider that she should be able to mentally subtract one figure from another - it sort of rubbed me up the wrong way.

And for that to happen not once, not twice, but thrice?

Tell me, am I entering the fuddy-duddy zone?

I was in Capital Letter-Mart, having just bought up on birthday clobber for the girl (and mentally subtracting my 25% as I was going along so I could, you know, buy to my budget), the girl gave me her total.

I handed over my card and told her to give me the change from $170, as I had the groceries yet to do and I like my bank not to charge me for every transaction.

The girl gave me a pained, silent expression.

"Um..." she sort of gulped. You see, her register obviously didn't have any sort of shortcut on working that out for her.

"You subtract that figure on your register from the $170," I helpfully advised her.

She gulped again, and her hand hovered on the "help from a manager" button.

We had a standoff for what seemed an eternity.

"My change will be $123.05" I finally gave her the answer.

"Thanks." she said, and regarded me like I had an extra head suddenly spring up.

"I used to always work out the change in my head for fun when I was your age," I explained to her for my amazing mental agility.

"Oh," she said, relieved. "We have calculators these days."

Now, I would overlook this as a bit of a blip, except that it (the mental arithmetic, not the breathtaking rudeness) happened twice more during the day.

I know not everyone had my mother, and therefore not everyone gets sums fired at them at the kitchen table.

But surely it is something we should ALL learn before we hit the cash register - how much you will be expected to pay and how much you expect to get back.

I am known (and subsequently avoided) at tuckshop for making the children add and subtract their transactions, and I hope to goodness that I save at least one or two from being ripped off witless.

But am I an OTT fuddy-duddy here, or are you on my side?


megz_mum said...

I am with you - and I am so sure neither of us are OTT fuddy-duddies!

Anonymous said...

I am with you and coonsider myself neither fuddy nor duddy. Funny story though :)

Brissiemum2 said...

No, I prefer the good, old fashioned head method. Actually, there is a whole Maths curriculum out there that supports the problem-solving in the head method, too! Lol!

And as for the day before my Little Miss! I almost forgot that! Please don't tell me that she is into High School Musical, Beanie Kids and Smiggles pencils like mine! That would be just too darn freaky!!! Lol!

MissyBoo said...

I'm with you!

I'm always torn when they're wrong in my favour as to whether to return the extra change or not!!!!

Anonymous said...

not old fashioned at all.

kids that can't add up annoy me too.

Tracey said...

I'm sending my 15 year old up to you for a while - maybe you can knock some sense into her. When we hit her with the relatively easy mental arithmetic, she goes all dumb blonde about it - when she is otherwise academically pretty smart. It's a worry. She won't even work out 24 hour time in her head. (Her 10 year old sister can, so it's obviously a recessive gene, combined with ATTITUDE - and not any flaw in our parenting! ;)
Given we've just been up at the school basically making an official complaint about her maths teacher (long story), you start to wonder what and how they are taught in schools these days. Husband and I feel like real old fuddy duddies, I can tell you.

Jayne said...

Waaaay back in the dim dark ages when I steered a cash register during high school we were trained to - you better sit down for this - count back the change to the customer!!!!
Total might be $4.25 from a $10.00 note - putting the change into the customer's hand we'd count 25c = $4.50,+ 50c =$5.00,+ $5.00 note = $10.00.
And we had to do mental maths all the time, and I still do it - I get thrown the scared look when I have the exact money ready for them before they hit the magic "total" button on their registers.
It's a secret super power and us oldies (over 30's) have it firmly in our grasp (insert evil laughter here) ;)

Pencil Writer said...

Oh, my! How I can appreciate your predicament! I do the mental addition/subtraction for fun (and essential balancing of budgeting, etc.) as well. Soft brains don't exactly excite me, though they do tend to frustrate me excessively!

My one recent "Sterling" experience with the soft brain (or no brain, drug sluggered brain, perhaps) was on an afternoon out running errands. I stopped at a drive-in burger place for a simple hamburger sans anything extra. No drink. No fries. Nothing except a simple hamburger. And I was starving!

The burger with tax came to $2.89. The only cash I had with me was a $20 bill. I usually give a small tip cause I know how little kids who work those joints make and I try to reward good (at least reasonably good) service--which I do find from time to time.

This kid comes with my burger. I hand him a twenty, right?, thinking $17.11 in change. I'll have to ask for four quarters to give him a tip.

Do you know what the genius hands me--after a LONG pause. 3 one dollar bills!!!!!! Yes, three. Only three.

I mention that the sum is not correct. (At this point, I for some insane reason DO NOT want to make it easy for him. My fault, I realize.) So he takes back what he's already given me, fumbles a moment or two more and hands me back only 2 one dollar bills. (The vision of monetary return is fading quickly.)

Now the burger doesn't even sound that good, if you know what I mean. I tell him that I handed him a twenty and my burger was only $2.89. He owes me $17.11. This mental giant heads back to the "office/kitchen" still with my money and doesn't return!

I buzz the operator and mention that I handed the delivery person a twenty for my hamburger and I want my change. (Strange of me, I realize!) I tell the operator how much I'm due back.

Mister wise guy returns. OH, I should mention that he's giggling during the earlier wrangling over change due. Still giggling as he begins to hand over some greenbacks. His mental capacity--whatever it might be--he still doesn't get it, so I instruct him as to the number of which denomination and coinage I'm due. (I've already consumed the poor, unsuspecting source of all the consternation over cost/change for its existance.)

Eventually, I retrieve all the change due me and take off for home, grumbling and boiling with the total inefficiency of and ill preparation of employees in those situations.

BUT, there is hope! While at the local WalMart one day recently, the person in front of me handed the cashier a $100 bill and waited for change. Long story short, she, like your lovely teenager incompetents, didn't know how to "fix" the change. The girl at the next register told her, "What was the total she owed?" In seconds she had come up with the correct change do and told her neighbor cashier, "I used to work at Sonic, and we had to know how to make change."

You could have knocked me over with a feather. So, I still wonder how did the genius of my brush with Sonic get hired? Is he still there? I wouldn't know. I've not been back. (he, he.)

I could tell you some other stories, but maybe I'll do that another day. Maybe I'll even blog about it???

So, long and short, NO, Jeanie, you are not out of touch. Some of the rising generation just aren't "in-touch" in places they ought to be. Perhaps, you could lengthen your famous "lists" to include a class for those individuals who might want to learn how to add and subtract using their own brains? It's a thought.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps an email to manager of offending stores on how to teach their cashiers to 'count out' change and how it affects customer relations might help - or letter to newspaper? I clearly remember being taught just how to do that - and being supervised randomly doing it - from my first day working in a shop at 14. One of life's important survival skills I think along with brushing teeth!
You are not a fuddy duudy because I am not old enough to be one either! Think all calculators thould be banned from schools until at least high school. They make students and teachers lazy in the arithmetic area.

Love your story Pencil writer.

Good luck M

Jen at Semantically driven said...

One of my first jobs was on the checkout at a hardware store and I was really crap at it. Maths is not my strong point but I'm sure if I'd practised more I would have become better at it. I only stayed in the job for a short time because I moved onto better things, but I agree they should know how to do mental arithmetic for when the technology fails them. Hope your daugher enjoys her birthday on Monday.

Melody said...

I guess teaching styles have changed since our day. My dad was a school teacher and even at home I had to do 'math-table races' with my sister. No wonder I hated maths! We had on the back of the toilet door the times tables poster and I know most of my friends did too. (Can you still get those?)

I too have had to tell cashiers about giving me change out of a dollar amount.

Sign of the times perhaps?



..and they don't have to spell correctly anymore.

Oh to be a student now rather than then.

jeanie said...

Oh I am in good company then!!

MegzMum - thanks.
RhubarbWhine - it is fun to recount some things.
BM2 - lol - every year, dear! Luckily my daughter is not too faddy - yet! As you are a teacher I am gladdened to hear of the mystery maths curriculum.
M+B - it is an issue, isn't it, being honest when they deserve to be ripped off.
bettina - thanks.
tracey - oh, what an offer!
jayne - ha ha ha - I love your take.
pencil writer - great story.
Mum - oops, anonymous - I agree - they don't even know the concept of counting back.
melody - yes you can buy them and my daughter had them on her bedroom wall but it doesn't replace times table races!!
Elizabeth - I immediately thought "what did I spell wrong" lol!

BB said...

Ahhh... you know where I stand on this one love. I too think everyone ELSE should be able to do the mental arthimetic... just as long as you don't expect ME to do it accurately!! Theory is a wonderful thing... as is your brain, my love.