Tag Archives: Math

There Was A Time…

I read an article recently about the changes that have occurred in our lives over the past couple of decades. The obvious ones are a result of technology and how we communicate and gather information in our daily lives. But technology has also eliminated other, less obvious items, things that seemed to fade away over a period of time. Things we no longer do.


Memorize a phone number.

I still have phones numbers memorized but that’s because I’m ancient. It used to be something I always did. Now it’s not necessary. Everything is on your phone or in the cloud.

Use a phone book to book up a business or name

I’m sure there is a generation of young people who don’t know what the “yellow pages” are and have never seen something called a phone book. But for many years, this was the way we looked up  phone numbers and even addresses of people we wanted to contact. This is how we found contractors to do work around the house or businesses for everyday needs. There was no Angie’s List or reviews on different sites to help determine who you wanted to hire. It was the phone book or word of mouth.

Selling your car with a cardboard sign stuck in the windshield.

I’ll still see this one occasionally, parked in some random location with a phone number and price included. But not often. On line sites, including Craigslist took care of that some years back.

Figure out math in your head

Paying cash for something is becoming more unusual these days but it’s always fun to pay in cash and give the person behind the register some change to eliminate pennies or some bills. They stare at their hands in confusion and look back up at you like committed some crime. Alexa does homework for kids sop that simple math is done with a voice request or on a calculator sitting on your phone.

Calling and asking someone “where are you?”

In this age of technology, all you have to do is download a phone tracker app and everyone you need to find can be located. No more wondering how long before they’ll home for dinner. Well, they could be in traffic, but there’s an app for that also.

Telling time by the hands on a clock

There is an entire generation of young people that either can’t do this or have difficulty with it. When I did some substitute teaching, analog clocks were still in some classrooms and I would always have fun asking kids for the time. I could probably write a blog on those responses.

Photo Albums

Sure some of them are still out there and being made but probably not by younger generations. Can you see them printing an image at some local photo shop store, taking 50 or hundred 4×6 or 5×7 photos back home and placing them in a photo album they purchased at Walmart? Digital photography and photo sharing services have all but eliminated that process.

Have a CD or record collection

There are still collectors and purists out there that collect but like photography, music is digital. Napster, (ancient now), paved the way for lots of music being condensed into tiny formats you can easily carry around with you.

Make mixtapes

I still have drawers filled with these and no where to play them. Actually, I think I still have an old boom box somewhere. I used to love finding just the right song to add onto a specific tape. I’d copy them from radios or records. Anywhere I could.

Calling a theatre for movie times

I remember having to call a movie theatre and listen to a recording listing the movies and times they were being shown. Sometimes you’d pick up the recording mid loop and have to wait for it to begin all over again to hear about the movie you wanted to see. Alexa has that covered now.


One store left in the world and theres a whole generation of young people who probably never heard the word.

Record your favorite movie or show on tape. 

I can’t tell you how many VHS tapes I still have with movies and shows I can watch anytime I want on any streaming service. I can even pull up a specific scene. I just can’t convince myself to get rid of those old tapes. And I don’t know why.

Watch shows when they’re broadcast live.

I’ve probably done this at some point in the last few months but I don’t remember when and for what reason. DVR and no commercials. A wonderful invention.

Run to the store for a last minute gift

Amazon has taken care of that problem. If you’re near an Amazon hub you can get something the same day.

Cut things out of the newspaper

I used to do that all the time if I found an article I liked and wanted to keep. Copy and text eliminated that.

Send a handwritten letter

Sigh. This is something I wish would never go away. There is something so personal about receiving a handwritten note. I could, and have written at length about this but since some schools don’t even teach handwriting anymore after a certain grade, it’ll be something that is gone soon. And that’s unfortunate.

Looking up the spelling of words in a dictionary

Spellcheck and autocorrect has taken care of that for us, even placing words never intended into spots that create some uncomfortable moments for us.

Using a phone booth to make a telephone call

I don’t remember the last time I saw one, even one that was busted up. I kind of miss them but not the millions of particles of germs that probably came along with the experience.

Carrying cash

Years ago, I gave each of daughters a twenty dollar bill and told them to stick in their wallets and use it only in the event of an emergency. Occasionally I used to ask to see it. Now everyone has a credit or debit card. I think I might have to ask for those 20’s back and go out for a nice little dinner with the wife. But my guess is they’re long gone.

Using a travel agent

Travel agents still serve a purpose if you’re panning an elaborate trip but for basic flights and hotels it’s a do it yourself kind of thing. There are lots of sites that can provide reviews and book flights and hotels.

Getting old checks back from the bank every month. 

Some people still write checks. I even write one or two every month but this too will soon be eliminated. Security does make me nervous but I’ve gotten over it. Most of the time.

So what about you? Anything minor items that you can think of that technology has replaced?

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.