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Sun Apr 18, 2021, 05:26 PM

From Counting Back Change to Math Innumeracy.

When I was 16 years old, back in 1962, I started a part time job delivering milk for a local dairy. On Saturdays, I worked in the dairy. While doing that, I also had to work the window where people drove up and bought dairy products. So, the owner of the dairy taught me to count back change.

Now, I was a math whiz in high school and knew exactly what change was needed for any purchase, no matter what the customer handed to me. Instantly. I demonstrated that ability to the the owner of the dairy. He promptly explained counting back change to me. OK, I said, "I can do that, too," and showed him. He said, "Well, OK. I get that you can do the math in your head, but the customers need you to count back the change." "No problem, " I told him, and demonstrated with several trial transactions.

Today, cash transactions almost don't exist. If you offer cash to someone working the register, they get confused. They have to type in how much you are giving them, and the correct amount to give you back is on the cash register display. They are often confused by the coins. If the amount is $17.73, and you hand them a $20 bill and three quarters, good luck to you. You have put them into cognitive dissonance mode. You will be there for a while.

But, we don't even do that any more. Instead, we push our debit or credit card into a slot and the checker gives you a receipt. Most of the time. Heaven help you if you pull out your wallet and take a few bills out and reach into your pocket for coins. It's a cinch that you will hold up the line behind you, while the checker calls a manager, who also may not be able to figure out that transaction.

Do you have dollar coins, or a $2 bill. The police might be called. Really. It has happened.

For that reason, I have a debit card for a checking account I only keep enough money in for typical transactions. I transfer money from my primary account into that account, as needed. I do not have time for cash register operators who have zero math skills. I have given up on carrying cash except to pay my grey-haired barber, or to put in birthday cards for my great nieces and nephews.

I haven't written a check for weeks. I don't have cash in my wallet, except for a couple of $20 bills I keep in there for cash-only places or garage sales.

We are now officially an innumerate society. I have learned to deal with that.

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Arrow 29 replies Author Time Post
Reply From Counting Back Change to Math Innumeracy. (Original post)
MineralMan Apr 18 OP
leftyladyfrommo Apr 18 #1
MineralMan Apr 18 #2
leftyladyfrommo Apr 18 #3
Leith Apr 18 #4
MyOwnPeace Apr 18 #18
Aristus Apr 18 #5
rickyhall Apr 18 #6
Mariana Apr 18 #27
lastlib Apr 18 #7
OneGrassRoot Apr 18 #11
lastlib Apr 18 #12
OneGrassRoot Apr 18 #15
Ms. Toad Apr 18 #19
brooklynite Apr 18 #8
erronis Apr 18 #9
captain queeg Apr 18 #10
nuxvomica Apr 18 #13
ret5hd Apr 18 #25
onethatcares Apr 18 #14
ripcord Apr 18 #23
Leith Apr 18 #24
PCIntern Apr 18 #16
PoindexterOglethorpe Apr 18 #17
AnyFunctioningAdult Apr 18 #20
Crunchy Frog Apr 18 #21
AwakeAtLast Apr 18 #28
meadowlander Apr 18 #22
LAS14 Apr 18 #26
rownesheck Apr 18 #29

Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Apr 18, 2021, 05:30 PM

1. We just assume those machines are doing those

transactions correctly. We never even ck.

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Response to leftyladyfrommo (Reply #1)

Sun Apr 18, 2021, 05:33 PM

2. Not me. I do the math in my head.

They work fine, as long as the checker doesn't make any stupid errors.

I watch the register as each item is scanned and run a mental tape in my head, adding up the total as each item is scanned. I can't tell you how many times I have seen an item register twice and have to stop the process to get that corrected.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #2)

Sun Apr 18, 2021, 05:36 PM

3. I can't do that. I can hardly add. Math was the bane of

my existance in high school. Managed to get a B in algebra. Never used it again until I had to take statistics.
Flunked geometry.

I am not a numbers person.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Apr 18, 2021, 05:37 PM

4. Sadly, you are right

It's too bad really. If people would just relax and stop telling themselves that math is too hard to even bother with, they would be just fine.

The job title "cashier" should be done away with. Perhaps "check out" or "checker" will start to be used instead.

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Response to Leith (Reply #4)

Sun Apr 18, 2021, 06:34 PM

18. It is a 'societal' thing.....

You will never hear anybody claim "I can't read" and smile while they're saying it - but people are SO quick to say "I'm terrible at math" and shrug while smiling.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)


Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Apr 18, 2021, 05:40 PM

6. Blows me away. Something cost 77 cents. I give the cashier a dollar bill. They get out a CALCULATOR!

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Response to rickyhall (Reply #6)

Sun Apr 18, 2021, 08:05 PM

27. Their elders failed them. nt.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Apr 18, 2021, 05:40 PM

7. This morning I bought lunch for Mom and myself--

...at a curbside food place. Total purchase $17.14. I gave the cashier a $20 bill and a quarter. Never got my 11cts change. She gave me $3 and walked off. I chalk it up to my subsidization of lousy math skills.

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Response to lastlib (Reply #7)

Sun Apr 18, 2021, 05:59 PM

11. 2 things...

She might have thought that was a tip. Iíve seen that happen frequently (pre-pandemic).

But may I ask - do you do a lot of cash transactions? I ask because, in this day and age, I always wonder why people resist change - in your case 86 vs 11 cents - unless they do a lot of cash transactions and thus donít want a lot of change or one-dollar bills. Half the time when I see people do it now I wonder if theyíre testing the cashierís math skills. lol

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Response to OneGrassRoot (Reply #11)

Sun Apr 18, 2021, 06:03 PM

12. Cash isn't hackable.

Cards are. Cash payments don't go into the database with my name and everything else the world knows about me.

Case closed, for me.

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Response to lastlib (Reply #12)

Sun Apr 18, 2021, 06:11 PM

15. Oh, I totally get that!

So the answer is that you do primarily deal in cash, so it makes sense that you don't want a lot of change or small bills. That's all I was asking...lol.

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Response to OneGrassRoot (Reply #11)

Sun Apr 18, 2021, 06:38 PM

19. $.86 4 coins (more likely 5)

$.11 = 2 coins.

I prefer avoiding an ever-growing collection of coins that I have to roll and take to the bank to get rid of.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Apr 18, 2021, 05:41 PM

8. Never had a problem getting change for cash.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Apr 18, 2021, 05:49 PM

9. I'm on the other side of the counter. I love money and coins

I also prefer to pay for most non-regular purchase with cash. Because I don't really want the credit card industry and the retailer to know so much about me.

Most people don't understand that every purchase they make, including the individual items, are recorded. How much sugar you consume, alcohol, what types of foods, discounts, high-income shoppers, etc.

It's getting more interesting when I buy items and ask the cashier "Do you accept cash?"

They have a harder time with real money.


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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Apr 18, 2021, 05:56 PM

10. I was already using cash less. Then the pandemic came

I took out $200 cash at the beginning of the lockdown in March and hadnít touched it till August. I pretty much charge everything so I get points but there are occasions where I use cash. Now that we can eat out sometimes Iíll use cash and just declare any change as a tip; depends on what cash I have on hand. Thereís a grocery store I go to sometimes that wonít take CCs. Lately Iíve noticed in the express lines some machines only take debit cards and some only take cash which was frustrating till I figured it out. My math skills have stopped off from non use. Stuff I used to do in my head nowadays Iíll jot down or use a calculator.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Apr 18, 2021, 06:05 PM

13. I think you are overstating cashiers' unfamiliarity with change

I always pay cash when I can and have never had a problem. Businesses accept it without batting an eye. In fact, a lot of small businesses, as well as the local transfer station, only accept cash.

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Response to nuxvomica (Reply #13)

Sun Apr 18, 2021, 07:58 PM

25. Yeah, but think of the satisfaction of...

being the curmudgeonly grandpa type with stories about ďthe kids these daysĒ and their lack of skills and the way they dress and their cellphones and whatnot. I tell ya, things were better back then, even if we wore an onion on our belt (it was the style at the time).

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Apr 18, 2021, 06:09 PM

14. just for the hell of it

I throw a few Buffalo nickels into the mix, sometimes 4 Indian Head Pennies or a badly worn Mercury or Barber dime. Just to give the cashier something to look at. Most cashiers are unaware the coins are made of silver, the dimes that is.

Eisenhower Dollars are great conversation starters. They're terribly large and look like cwap but hey, if ya gottem, spendem'. is my motto.

Remember that the government pulled gold out of circulation in a heart beat, the hard and soft money can go just as fast and if everyone is using a card for transactions it's easy to track who got what, when and where.

Unless of course you're a large corporation.

and no, I'm not tin foil hatting here.

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Response to onethatcares (Reply #14)

Sun Apr 18, 2021, 07:20 PM

23. I always have some $2 bills for small tips

One girl told me those were rare and I really should keep them.

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Response to onethatcares (Reply #14)

Sun Apr 18, 2021, 07:46 PM

24. Oh man!

Where were you when I was a bank teller? I looooooved people who brought me collectable coins! As soon as the customer left my window, those coins were mine!

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Apr 18, 2021, 06:11 PM

16. Agreed in toto AND

If I had a dollar for every time Iíve suggested to cashiers NOT to put the bill in the drawer until AFTER the change is delivered , I could easily retire. And I do this for THEIR sake. 🥺

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Apr 18, 2021, 06:26 PM

17. Having been on both sides of giving something like

a $20.00 bill and three quarters for a $17.73 bill, and receiving the same, I can tell you that if you give the change amount, you have already done the math in your head. When receiving it, I've always been thrown and it takes me vastly longer to do the math then.

I likewise worked taking cash long before the machines that figure the change for you. A few years when I had a temp job where I was doing a bit of selling and taking cash, I could not get used to just pulling out the change it told me to take. I had to count back the money the old way.

That said, I pay cash for my day-to-day expenses and honestly have no trouble getting the correct change back. Sometimes I have to gently correct the cashier, but that really isn't anything new. Many of us occasionally made minor mistakes back in the day.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Apr 18, 2021, 06:48 PM

20. I try never to pay in cash

I very much love the wallet diet I went on years ago. I never carry cash or even a wallet anymore unless I am traveling long distance and before COVID traveled almost every week for work. I just carry my phone and in its case I have my driver's license, a credit card, and debit card. That is it. I think the last time I actually wrote a check for something had to be about ten years ago. I think the address on what dusty checks I still have somewhere is about four addresses out of date.

I gets points to use for travel or to redeem in other ways for every dollar I spend using my credit or debit cards, so paying in cash literally costs money.

I also challenge myself not to get cash when I travel to other countries and see how far I can get. So far I successfully went to Canada and Iceland without doing any currency exchanging. A couple I did still need to get cash in were Taiwan and Malaysia due to wanting street vendor food.

I definitely understand the point of the diminished ability for cashiers to be able to count out change though.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Apr 18, 2021, 07:08 PM

21. I worked at a Dairy Queen in the 90s. The registers were electronic, but didn't calculate change.

One of my coworkers had a very, very young niece, and she was allowed to sometimes "work" there. (we were a close knit group, and the boss was cool.) So the boss taught her how to count back change using monopoly money.

So, years later, her mother told me a story about once when she was "working" at the DQ, age six, and the two adult workers had disappeared in the back and she was alone at the front when a customer came in. He just wanted an ice cream cone, so she dutifully made one for him, gave it to him, took his money and counted out his change. He must have been shocked to see such a little kid apparently working there all alone, so he turned around and handed her a $10.00 tip.

Anyway, no real point to this story, other than it's a skill that even a six year old can master. I don't know why they ever stopped teaching it.

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Response to Crunchy Frog (Reply #21)

Sun Apr 18, 2021, 10:40 PM

28. They still teach it.

But they stop in 2nd grade. Students completely forget it. I think it needs to be refreshed every year.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Apr 18, 2021, 07:16 PM

22. I'm hooked on garage sale Youtube videos

where eBay resellers wear a GoPro camera and film their negotiations with people running their garage sales.

The number of ordinary citizens that get a deer in the headlights look when asked to do simple mental math problems like "What's two times thirty?" is really, really scary.

One women had agreed to about six items up to $15 and when the buyer asked to add one more small thing she reduced the price of all of it to $10. A lot of people would rather lose a few bucks than spend ten seconds adding them up correctly.

Makes me wonder what all the other kids were doing in elementary school if they weren't learning civics, history, geography, basic science or math.

And these are the same people who think they know more about vaccines than Dr Fauci.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Apr 18, 2021, 08:02 PM

26. I gotta say I was stopped by the three quarters for $17.73. $17.75, OK. But.... nt

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Apr 18, 2021, 11:22 PM

29. I will be happy

when we finally become a cashless society. I can do math in my head, but people digging out change is annoying and it takes forever, especially when they start giving pennies. Checks are worse than cash. I'm glad I work somewhere that doesn't accept checks. I've often said I'll be first in line to be implanted with a chip that would contain all my info so I don't have to carry anything.

I'm not putting down anyone who still likes using cash or checks, I'm just offering my opinion.

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