Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Numbers Game

I avoided college math and opted for foreign language many years ago. Now I'm paying for being numbers weak. I have to apologize frequently for miscounting my change and trying to correct the cashier, writing down my bank account instead of my social security, thinking I've a bargain purchase when after careful check I don't...

Wednesday I called to pay my telephone bill and arrange for disconnection here in New York. Again numbers played a game with me:

--Ma'm, what is your account number?
--Umm, 0000.
--No, that's your pin number.
--Umm, I guess I don't have one.
--Ma'm, it's 00000 000.
--Oh, that sounds familiar.
--Now, Ma'm, what are the last four numbers of your social security?
--Oh, that's 0000.
--No,ma'm, that's not what we have on file.
--Try 0000, my husband's number.
--No, ma'm, that's not the number. Can you tell me your birday date?
--That, I can do. August 30,0000.
--Fine, ma'm. Now can you recite your full social security number?
--Uh, 000-00, not that's not it; 000-00-0000.
--Well, that's not what we have here.
--Now,listen, I've had that number for upteen years; either someone there took down the wrong numbers or....look, I'm just an old lady who can't remember numbers...(my standard excuse).
--Ma'm, think again.
--Ok, 000-00-0000. That's it! I do get the last number mixed up with another one.
Whew! I have to say that combo several times before the right set of numbers click.
--Ok, ma'm, what is the nature of your business?

I needed a cold drink after that strenuous conversation...however, it doesn't compare with the Dell switchboard that moves me from one telephone no. to another, then having to haggle with someone in Timbuctu whose English needs ironing.

Now the Educators That Be are realizing that schools should return to the old math via rote. I was a product of the old math. I only stumbled with 8's in multiplication; per centage was a mire; division, easy if I wrote it out and then figured the answer. I loved high school algebra, failed geometry. So when I hit college I assumed any advanced math couldn't improve what I knew about addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

But I've paid the price many times since. Would I have been a better math student if I'd followed the college track?

1 comment:

Endment said...

Wow - how well you describe many of my recent conversations!!!

What does you skill or lack of skill have to do with the numbers today? How come a phone company gets to ask for your social security number? I can still remember my phone number from my childhood - what I cant remember are all the pin numbers and the answers to absurd questions people ask - Oh yes - I do remember my mother's maiden name (thank you)

Perhaps the question we all ought to be asking is why it is so difficult to deal with technology, utilities, medical personel and all the other stuff in our lives today!!!

Wishing you a safe trip home