Counting Change

It’s been a good number of years since I was in elementary school and since I was last exposed to the curriculum but I’m hoping that those who set curriculums still see the value in teaching kids how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. WITHOUT a calculator.

I bring this up because after recently shifting from using credit cards to using mostly cash for purchases, I’ve made an observation. I’ve noticed that some cashiers are almost dumbfounded when I hand them some paper bills and some coins. As if I had just handed them some pieces of fabric and rocks. They know that they need to count it and add up all of the pieces to figure out what to punch into their cash register…but the pain to watch some of them try to calculate the amount of cash in their hands! The paper bills don’t usually pose much of a problem but the mix of change certainly has, and I should clarify that it’s not as though I’m paying with a lot of coins; I just want to either pay with exact change or get less coins back. For instance, if something is $15.83, I’ll either give them $15 in paper bills and 83 cents (like 3 quarters, 1 nickel, and 3 pennies) or 85 cents (like 3 quarters and 1 dime) in coins. That shouldn’t be too difficult to count, right? But I see cashiers counting and re-counting and re-counting again, always getting lost somewhere in the addition. After half a minute of watching them, I’ll tell them how much change I gave them and they’ll say “that’s what I was thinking” before putting it into their register….

I do admit, sometimes, it brings me a twisted sense of satisfaction to add a cognitive challenge to somebody’s day. But other times, it makes me wonder what is happening to the world if my cashier is having trouble counting some change.

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