She Carried The Change Too Far

, , , , , | Right | August 5, 2020

A fifteen-ish-year-old girl comes to the counter with a box of candy.

Me: “All right, that’s going to be $3.75.”

Girl: “All right.” 

She hands me a five-dollar bill, and I give her $1.25 for her change. She gives me a weird look and then walks away to her friend. They talk for a while, and then the girl comes back to the counter.

Girl: “Shouldn’t I have gotten $2.25 back?”

Me: “You got [candy], right?”

Girl: “Yeah.”

Me: “And you gave me a five, right?”

Me: “Yeah, the candy was $3.75, so I gave you the right amount of change.”

Girl: “No, you didn’t. It should have been $2.25.”

Me: “Ma’am, even the register says it is $1.25.”

Girl: “But why?”

Me: “The candy was $3.75, the quarter makes $4, and the dollar makes $5.”

Girl: “Oh.”

She walks away, acting like I’m still wrong and she doesn’t want to deal with it anymore.

Coworker: “Did that just happen?”

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This One Sure Doesn’t Measure Up

, , , , , | Working | August 4, 2020

As a contractor, I need some day labor to assist in a project, basically manning a shovel. I am talking to some of the prospects because if I find someone with good qualifications and experience I might consider hiring them after their contract with the day labor business is complete.

I am talking to one young fellow who looks to be just out of high school.

Me: “And how are your math skills?”

Laborer: “Math skills? I don’t need no freaking math skills; I’m gonna be a carpenter!”

Me: “…”

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It’s Not Easy, Screening Green

, , , , , , | Right | August 3, 2020

Back in the 1980s and ‘90s, my father used to work as a repairman for TVs, VCRs, and similar. This is a reconstruction of something that happened back then.

Dad: “[Repair Shop], how can I help you?”

Customer: “Every time I close my back door, my TV turns green.”

Dad: *Pause* “I’m sorry, what?”

Customer: “My TV works fine when the door is open, but when I close it, the whole screen turns green!”

Dad: “This I’ve got to see. I’ll be right over.”

He goes down to the customer’s house to have a look at the problem. Sure enough, when the back door is open, the TV works perfectly, but when it’s shut, the screen turns green. Dad examines the door in question to see if there’s anything weird about it, and as he does, he notices something in the back yard.

Dad: “I see you’ve lost a tree.”

Customer: “Yeah, lost it in that storm last week. It got hit by lightning.”

Dad: “And was that when your TV started acting strange?”

Customer: “Come to think of it, yeah!”

The door was a steel storm door, and the electrical charge of the lightning bolt so nearby had polarized it into a giant magnet. Opening it put it just far enough from the TV that it wouldn’t affect it, but when it was closed, the magnetic field was enough to warp the picture and make it turn green!

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Math Skills! Ooh Ha Ha!

, , , , , , , | Learning | August 3, 2020

I am a private tutor. To make math more fun for my students, I often play a modified version of a Pompeii-themed boardgame with them during our lessons. For every question they answer correctly, they get a certain number of moves — depending on the question’s difficulty — to help their pawns escape the city, which gets increasingly consumed by lava as the rounds continue. For every wrong answer, they forfeit their turn and I get to move my pawns instead. The person with the most escaped pawns by the end of the game is the “winner”.

To try to instill a habit of always checking their work, I’ve also created a rule that if they don’t read over their steps or at least double-check the question again when they get to their answer, I get to just take one of their pawns and pop it straight into the volcano in the corner of the board. I am brutal with this and it has worked tremendously well; I don’t usually have to punt a pawn into a volcano more than once or twice before double-checking their work becomes an automatic process. 

I am playing this game with one of my fourth-graders — age nine. After giving him a two-digit multiplication question, I look over and check his answer once he’s finished — and double-checked!

Me: “You missed something in your addition there. Check that last column again.”

Student: “What do you mean?”

Me: “That shouldn’t be a zero. Check it again.”

Student: “No, that’s a nine!”

I take the whiteboard back from him, at which point I can see that he indeed wrote a nine, not a zero; I missed the “tail” of the nine from the angle I was viewing it from and the fact that he’d written the answer right on the edge of the board. But he got the right answer, fair and square.

Me: “Whoops, you’re right. It is a nine. Sorry, I thought that was a zero. My bad.”

Without skipping a beat, the student wordlessly takes one of my pawns off the board, and, without breaking eye contact, puts it straight into the volcano.

Me: “…”

Student: *Deadpan* “You didn’t double-check.”

Okay, kiddo. You win this round!

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Thinking Outside The Box

, , , , , , | Learning | July 19, 2020

I am a private tutor. I’ve given one of my students, a fifth-grader, an exercise which I call “reverse word problems”. The student gets a list of equations, and for each equation, they have to come up with a word problem that could fit the given equation. I am reading the answers he’s written.

Me: “You’re a scientist with four-fifth of a dead cow. You’re in a duplication room and you duplicate two-fifths of it. How much of a cow do you have?”

The equation for this one was “4/5 x 2/5.”

Me: *Laughing* “A… a scientist with a dead cow? Really, kid?”

Student: *Giggles* “Well, obviously. It has to be a dead cow. If you have four-fifths of a cow, how can it possibly still be alive?”

Me: *Pause* “You got me there.”

I keep reading.

Me: “You have one dollar and six friends, and you decide to split the dollar evenly between your six friends. How much of a dollar does each friend get?” *Pause* “Wait a minute; this doesn’t work.”

Student: “Yes, it does.”

Me: “No, think about it. Can a dollar divide into six equal parts?”

Student: *Indignantly* “Yes, it can!”

Me: “Okay, how?”

Student: “You take a pair of scissors and cut the bill into six equal parts!”

Me: “I— Well. That’s…”

The student laughs.

Me: “…genius. Forget I said anything.” 

This kid is going places.

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