Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Math genius to the rescue

Two things I am not good at--patience and math--were simultaneously put to the test last weekend while I stood in line at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

First, you need to know that I always stand in the slowest possible line in any check out. I know we probably all feel that way. It never fails, as soon as I get my cart unloaded, the cashier needs help. Or the lady in front of me decides to go through her entire coupon file one-by-one. A few months ago when I was in this situation, I warned the guy who got in line behind me: "If you ever want to get out of here, do NOT get in this line." He actually came back after he'd made his purchase--while I was still waiting--and thanked me for saving him the hassle.

So I'm in line at BB&B, waiting to purchase my one item. The woman in front of me is buying 12 identical novelty pens. They are 75% off. The cashier needs to enter the discount manually, which apparently requires the pressing of at least 14 buttons (very slowly) on the keyboard. Finally finished ringing up the first pen, the cashier explains that she now needs to do this 11 more times. (Help me!) After the 5th time through this process, the customer notices the pens are not ringing up correctly. The cashier cancels the whole transaction and starts over.

But wait, they are still ringing up "incorrectly" according to the customer. She proceeds to explain that these $2 pens are ringing up as 50 cents after the discount is taken, but 75% off $2 should be 25 cents. (Go ahead, do the math...this is where I really start to lose it.)

Here's the thing. I write stuff. I can't do math. I may have graduated summa cum laude, but my secret shame is that I didn't qualify for the basic freshman math class in college. Instead I took some remedial class called "Contemporary Math." (I appreciated the course title because, despite the reality that put me in this class, it sounded like I was on the forefront of all that was hip and cool about math.)

But even I know that 75% off $2 is 50 cents! That is lemonade stand math! And neither the cashier nor the customer could figure this out. I proceeded to do the math with both of these women. In detail. Turns out it hadn't rung up wrong the first time after all. Isn't that swell?!

When it was finally my turn, the cashier actually said to me "Thanks for your math help." Wow. Five words I never thought I would hear. I would like to bottle that up and give it to Mr. Martinson--my high school algebra teacher the year I had to get a math tutor. I admit, I would be lost without my calculator, but have we really lost all ability to problem solve for ourselves?


  1. LOL! I love this story (and can SO relate)! You get a gold star (for patience and for solving the math problem correctly).

  2. Wow, you've hit on one of the two biggest problems with our society, math and GRAMMER. I'm not sure what's being taught, or how students are passing, but we Americans SHOULD AT LEAST BE ABLE TO SPEAK AND WRITE CORRECTLY IN OUR NATIVE LANGUAGE. At work I'm know as the "grammer nazi" because I'm always correcting them. Why? Because I can't stand it!

    Typical statement by most here at work: "I haven't WENT there before. To quote Heather; HELP ME!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Love it! - - Just the other day while subbing I was trying to explain to upper Elementary Children why they were going to need to know the Math lesson for everyday life....they looked at me like, seriously I will never use this. Then a couple days later while subbing again, this time in high school, in study hall I had a student ask how to find 10% of 94 million 804 thousand. I said, that is easy...even I know how to do that, you move the decimal! After the student telling me that there was no decimal in the problem I explained that 10% of 100 dollars is 10 dollars and so on and so forth! - -Anyways, although, I like you do not enjoy math, I do know how to do basic math, especially when it comes to saving money on shopping trips! :) Thanks for the good read this morning

  4. Oh Erin, I LOVE that your student didn't think there was a decimal in the number. LOL! And Dad, I'm with you on the grammar thing too. (And if we're being picky, let's not forget spelling. It's grammAr, not grammEr..hehehe). It's nice to know I'm not the only one who hangs my head in shame of some of our fellow citizens. (Not that others don't do the same for me for other reasons!)

  5. Around here I get smirks and sideways glances for the way my mind works through, very painfully sometimes, the math of everyday life. I too could have come up with the 75% off of $2 thing, but I struggle with all kinds of math problems. My wife Krista is the opposite,doing complicated stuff in her head and, get this, ENJOYING IT! Freaky.

    Wait until kids come your way at some point in the future and you have to learn this stuff all over again in order to help them with their 7th grade math, which I am doing today. Are you smarter than a 5th grader? On some days, in math, I am not.

    Love the writing from both of you and your dad's comments crack me up.

  6. I teach high school business and marketing classes, not math. But to survive in the business world one needs some basic math skills. It often feels hopeless here. Many (maybe most?) students today certainly do not know how to do "simple" math such as 5 x 5 in their heads because they have grown so accustomed to using their calculator (a.k.a now their cell phones).

    Where did we go wrong in this education of ours? But who cares, right - as long as the kids know how to write a 30 page paper of BS on the theory of knowledge we'll all be just A-ok. Either that or President Obama will fix it. Oops did I write that?

  7. Ha! Laura...I couldn't agree more!!