Friday, December 31, 2010

How many Walmart shoppers does it take to figure out 24 x 4?

Apparently, it takes two adults, one child, and a calculator. So sad.

I was standing in a very slow-moving Walmart return line last week.  In front of me was a mother with her son, who was about age 6.  The little boy started complaining at how incredibly long it was taking to return their item.  Believe me, I was relating quite fine to his woes.  He guessimated that it was taking something like 100 hours.  Yep, it sure felt like that.

The mother told the boy that there are only 24 hours in a day, so 100 hours isn't quite accurate.  A mother after my own heart, or so I thought, using idle time for a learning moment. The boy then contemplated how many days would be 100 hours.  Hmm...three...four?  The boy thought hard and decided four days would be about 116 hours.  Then the wise mother chimed in to help him.  Here it comes...the big teaching moment.

"Let's see...24 x 4 would me think...76, I think.  No, that doesn't sound quite right.'s see.. 24 x 4 is..."

A young man in front of them, who appeared to be in his early 20s, joined in the big quest to solve the big problem of the day.  Finally, after what seemed like a forever discussion that involved zero problem solving skills, he whipped out his cell phone to use the calculator.  Woo hoo...we have an answer. 96!  Then the mom cheered and said,

"I was right!"

"No you weren't," responded the boy.  "You said 76!"

Man, gotta love that kid.  Not only was his guess (116) just a accurate as the only adult submission (76), but he's willing to call it as he sees it.

I'm always amazed at the general lack of understanding numbers.  There are numerous ways to solve this problem quickly, e.g. using 25 x 4 and subtracting 4, doubling to 48 (for 2 days) and then doubling again, or adding up the tens, then the ones.  Even just working it out mentally as you would on paper would be quicker than all the discussion involved or even the time required to use the calculator.

Unfortunately, there were also a number of ways that would have made the Walmart return line move faster, and that wasn't happening either.  My free time was slipping away as fast as that lost learning opportunity.

2 incompetent employees + 12 people in line = 14 minutes spent contemplating the failure of public education

Very sad, indeed.


Diane Allen said...

A humorous view of a sad situation!

People can't make change either - unless the cash register tells them how. I never try to confuse the clerk with a bill larger than the amount owed and coins beside.

Twisted Cinderella said...

Too funny and just a little sad too.

Happy New Years! Here's to a fabulous new year!

Christi said...

I remember when I worked at Burger King, I was the only one that worked the drive-thru; because I was the only one that could count back change. My kids have been taught from the get-go how to do their math in their head, anything else just frustrates me.