Tag Archives: Math

Smarter Than A Fourth Grader?

For those of you unfamiliar with Amazon’s Echo and our friend, Alexa, here is a description put out by Amazon…
Alexa is an intelligent personal assistant developed by Amazon, made popular by the Amazon Echo and the Amazon Echo Dot devices developed by Amazon Lab126. … Alexa can also control several smart devices using itself as a home automation system. 

Essentially, Echo is a smart speaker and Alexa is the voice you hear providing you with answers to most any question you might have. She’s basically a know it all that you can’t see.

With that as a backdrop, I was teaching a fourth grade class the other day and we were just beginning our math period by reviewing the previous night’s homework. Individual students would give an answer and if everyone was in agreement we’d move on. If not, we’d work out the problem on the board so everyone understood.
After James gave his answer, a couple of students sold him out and began laughing, saying he cheated because he asked Alexa for the answer. I looked over at James and his eyes were looking down and his face was red.
I was trying not to laugh because i never considered Alexa as a resource for homework but then again, I’m not a clever nine-year old with easy options available to him. So the very brief conversation went like this…

Me (smiling): James, did you use Alexa to do your math homework last night?

James (looking at his “friends”): You don’t how I did my homework!

Me: James, I’m not upset if you did, I’m just curious if Alexa helped you with your homework.

James: (looking at me with his face still red): Yeah, but after she gave me the answer, I did the problem myself. I wanted to check her to make sure she was right.

Me (trying not to laugh out loud): So you checked Alexa to make sure she didn’t make a mistake?

James: Yeah.

The class became quiet and looked at me to see what I would say but I don’t sell out clever nine-year olds who can think on their feet in front of their peers. So I simply said, “that was smart,” and we moved on.

I’m not sure what kind of lesson James learned that day, if any, or if he understood he was scamming the system a bit and might try doing it another way in the future. It’s possible.
All I know is that when I glanced back up at him a few seconds later he was smiling and his face wasn’t red anymore. I’m guessing he was feeling pretty good about himself.

And that was good enough for me.


Another Trip Around The Sun

I have reached an age when, if someone tells me to wear socks, I don’t have to. 
Albert Einstein

They tell me I turned 64 today. That’s what they tell me, though I don’t necessarily believe everyone is being completely honest with me. I had relatives who were 64. Those people were old and I’m pretty sure I don’t act like they did or look like them or walk like them. Well, maybe occasionally I walk a little funny. But hey, I see 20 year old’s moving a little gingerly at times so forgive me if, after playing a game or two of basketball against those “kids”, I get out of the chair a little more slowly than I did earlier in the day. Some things just need time to correct themselves.

In fact, looking back, it seems to me I was clueless until I was about 50 years old.
Nora Ephron

If, in fact, I am this age that people are singing about, I don’t know where it came from, when it happened or what it means. I know I celebrated some birthdays in the past. I remember being a little depressed when I turned 30 because, well, I turned 30. The only other time a birthday bothered me was when they told me I turned 50, only because old people turn 50. At least that what I used to think. But 50 just happened the other day, that’s why I think this 64 thing is just some practical joke. Because if the people who tolerate my childish ways are trying to convince me that 34 years have passed since I was a depressed 30 year old, then I’m in serious trouble. That means that 98 is right around the corner.

How is that possible? I can give you detailed information about the stickball game I played when I was ten or the people we got even with on mischief night when I was 12. I could even tell you how I cheated on my alphabet test when I was five years old in kindergarten; and you’re trying to push 64 on me? Sorry, I’m not buying into it. I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve always been doing, thinking the way I’ve always thought and trying hard to fight this dirty word people refer to as maturity. And I’m going to listen closely to Woody Allen when he said…

You can live to be 100 if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be 100. 
Woody Allen

So I guess I’ll never reach the triple digit celebration, because I’m not going to sacrifice all the things I enjoy just so someone can smile at me as they’re wiping the cake off my face and taking a picture for the local newspaper. But I have 60 years to worry about whether that party will happen.


No, the calculation is correct. This isn’t the math you learned in school. This is called birthday math. It’s a little different. If you need a lesson, let me know but my guess is you’ll understand it sooner than you like.

So if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and blow out the candles before the smoke alarms go off. Seems like everyone turns into a comedian on my birthday.

Beautiful young people are accidents of nature but beautiful old people are works of art.
Eleanor Roosevelt

Messing With Cashiers

My parents owned a small grocery store when I was younger and there were many times I had to watch the store while my Dad ran out to make deliveries or pick up fresh meat and vegetables. We had a cash register that was from the early 1900’s. I still have it in my basement. If someone came in and their bill came to 9 dollars and 43 cents, I had to press the 3 dollar button three times and then the 40 and 3 buttons at the same time. If I was given a ten-dollar bill I had to figure out how much change they had coming to them. Sometimes they gave me a ten-dollar bill and three pennies to round out the amount so they wouldn’t receive pennies in the change.

Times have changed. Now when I pay for something the cashier enters the amount I give them and the change is automatically calculated. It’s pretty easy, or so you would think. But sometimes just to have a little fun, I’ll give a cashier silver or pennies in addition to the bills I handed over. So if the bill is 21 dollars and fifty cents, I may give them 25 dollars and fifty cents, or Heaven forbid, 31 dollars and fifty cents, so I can get a ten-dollar bill back. Sometimes, if pennies are involved, I’ll throw a few of them into the equation, just to add to the ball of confusion.
By the look on their faces, you would think I just handed them an exam on Advanced Differential Equations. They look at the money in their hand, then look up at me, as if I’m going to offer some help. Then they look at the money again, thinking that maybe they made a mistake, then look at the open draw of the register, hoping that maybe the answer is written on a cheat sheet they may have missed. Sometimes a manager notices their confusion and comes over to help. That’s when the real fun begins. The cashier, raises their money filled hands in the direction of the manager as if in surrender. So what does the manager do? (S)He looks at the cashier, then at the money, then at me, then at the register and begins doing what can only be described as Managerial Math. I’m not sure what that is, I only know some things are written on a piece of paper, additional buttons are pressed on the register and I’m told they have to void out the sale and start over again, as if that would temper my sadistic behavior.

At some point during this confusing transaction I give in and instruct them how much I should receive in change. At that point, I could tell them anything and the confused, red-faced cashier would be happy just to get rid of me. Hmmm….that’s a thought.

I don’t know what happened to calculating simple math. All I know is that it’s lost somewhere behind the many counters I’ve visited in recent years.

Now, I’m not telling you what to do for fun. I’m sure many of you enjoy your own evil tendencies. But if you’re ever in a store and remember this post, have a little extra change in your pocket and some time on your hands, well…..there are much less fun ways to spend ten minutes or so of your day.

You can thank me later.