Listen, I’ve never claimed to be a math genius.  I’ve got solid basic skills and can stretch a bit into the upper maths (at least I hope I can considering the kids are fast approaching those classes), but I’m not the next Einstein.  And I’m okay with that.

What I’m not okay with is the fact that most of people behind a cash register can’t seem to make exact change today.

I know a lot of things have slipped by the wayside to accommodate the country’s push toward improving test scores – we fudge a bit on time given to science and social studies lessons; cursive was dropped then added and maybe dropped again; certain skills were stripped entirely out of language arts, and they’re going light on several math areas that I remember were driven home in my elementary days.

Like clocks.  Real clocks.  There used to be tons of time devoted to understanding analog clocks, which was critical once you moved into elapsed time problems.  Plus it’s a skill I actually use as an adult in real life!  Now they hit it in second and third grade, including lessons on digital clocks (let’s not even talk about how THAT’S NOT A REAL LESSON), and then move it along in fourth.  You didn’t get it?  Then don’t volunteer to cook Thanksgiving supper, I guess.

Money is the other area where I think my kids are getting shortchanged.  (Ba-dum-dum!)  Sure, they studied bills and identifying coins…they even worked on problems about making change.  I guess they’re getting the basic instruction they need, which means all those cash register adults did, too.

So what the hell’s the problem?  Why does everything shut down if the register’s “not working” (aka: telling them what change to give)?  Why do cashiers stare at me blankly when I give them a twenty dollar bill and a quarter when I owe them $10.15?  I can’t be the only person who doesn’t have correct change and doesn’t want to carry a bunch of ones in my wallet.  Surely there are other people in town who pay with bills and coins so they get the change they want.

But no.  The chick at the drive through just stares into her hand like I’ve handed her a snake before finally entering the bizarre amount into her register so it will spit out the correct change.  This isn’t hard math, people!  Give me a dime to make change for the coins and a ten dollar bill for the rest.  Voila!  Exact change.

Even better are the young folks who can’t count up to make exact change.  Like, if their calculator dies or the cash register freaks these kids are bereft.  So for all those poor souls meandering lost through the world of commerce, here’s a primer.

The bill comes to $22.45.  Your customer hands you a fifty dollar bill.  Don’t Panic.  You can do this.  You’re going to count back change into their hand from their owed amount until you hit their paid amount.  So in the example here, a nickel makes 50 cents and then two quarters brings you to $23.  Two ones gets you to $25 and a five dollar bill makes $30.  You need twenty more dollars to reach their fifty dollar payment, so fork over a twenty or two tens and you’re golden.

Being old as dirt, I actually worked one of my first jobs in a camera and card shop that used (brace yourself, now) an old fashioned cash register that didn’t tell you the change.  You had to do the math yourself.  In front of the customer.  On the fly.  But I’ll tell you what…I learned to count out exact change like a beast behind that counter.

Everyone should have to work a job like that.


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Check out Linda’s blog to check out her Stream of Consciousness Saturdays.  There’s always a fun prompt and lots of neat blogs to discover.  This week’s prompt was writing a post using a word with “ex” in it.