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chyna's avatar

Are kids today not taught how to count change back?

Asked by chyna (41783points) September 24th, 2017

I was at a store and my bill came to 23.84. The girl, probably in her early 20’s just kept standing there with a funny look on her face. I asked her what was wrong. She said “the machine didn’t tell me how much change to give back.” She absolutely had no idea how to count it back to me. I told her to give me a penny, a nickel, a dime and a dollar. Then showed her how to count it back. She had no interest in learning, but seemed like a nice girl.
Those of you with kids, or who are young, in your twenties, do you know how to count back change?

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26 Answers

jca's avatar

That’s happened to me, too, in stores and they’re very trusting when I tell them what my change should be.

I think it’s not only not taught today in schools, but cashiers are so used to having the machine tell them that when the machine doesn’t tell them, they’‘re lost.

janbb's avatar

i had a similar problem the other day. The change was supposed to be $18.70 but I gave her 35 cents after she had put the amount in the register and she was totally flummoxed. She kept telling me she wasn’t supposed to take any more money after she had opened the drawer but it was because she couldn’t figure out she had to give me $19.05 back.

Zaku's avatar

I’m an older guy who’s good at math, and it’s striking to me that any cashier wouldn’t get how to give change. I never found “counting back” very natural though. I assume some people find it comforting to have it counted out up to the amount they gave, as a kind of informal verbal agreement/explanation of how the change makes sense. (I would tend to subtract to calculate the difference, and then pick money that adds up to that.)

Like @janbb, in recent years I have often stumped some young cashiers when giving them a bit of extra coin to get back fewer coins.

I’ve also seen a restaurant shut down when they lost Internet connection, and people who can’t sell you anything when there’s something going wrong with their checkout systems, especially in places with sales tax. Without sales tax, it’s more common to be able to hand the cashier the amount something costs in cash and take it.

v @zenvolo LOL


zenvelo's avatar

My father went into a University bookstore once, and his total came to $17.47 . He gave the cashier a twenty, two ones, two quarters, and two pennies. He said the look on the cashier’s face was like a deer facing an oncoming train.

longgone's avatar

I’m probably almost part of “kids today”. I was good at maths, but I can’t remember any formal introduction in “counting back”. Like @Zaku, I tend to just do the maths.

chyna's avatar

I remember practicing in third grade counting back change using fake money.
But I’m pretty old.

cookieman's avatar

This has driven me nuts for years, but I think I’ve come to terms with it.

My daughter learned how to handle money around fourth grade. They spent a good amount of time on the denominations, doing math problems with it, etc. continued through fifth, maybe sixth grade – where it would pop op now and again. She was plenty good at it.

However, in real life, she only uses cash to pay for lunch at school ($3) or uses an app on her phone to pay for stuff at Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. She also doesn’t have a job handling cash. As such, she has zero practice handling money and thus has forgot 90% of what she learned.

As for the kids working registers, I suspect it’s a similar situation plus they are poorly trained at the job.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

No. I was a cashier and math only works when you are ready for it from the start. With the POS point of sale cashiers it sets you up to depend on it doing the math for you. It basically enables you to rely on it. POS cashiers blank out until needed and then it is too late.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I remember teaching it in some classes in the 90s. But they may not teach them any more. It’s such a basic math skill it floors me that they don’t spend an hour teaching the kids how to do it. It’s so simple.

MrGrimm888's avatar

If this was in America, I’m not surprised. Educational standards are pathetic…

chyna's avatar

It is in America.

Love_my_doggie's avatar

I’m not in my 20s, and I don’t have any kids that age. I’m just an old fogey who enjoys observing the world.

Yes, this happens so often. Modern cash registers provide the correct amount, so young people don’t learn the very simple skill of counting change.

josie's avatar

My experience in myriad retail encounters is that the answer is a definite yes, they are not taught.
Public education…the lowest common denominator sets the standard.
Think of the poorest most dysfunctional neighborhood in your city. Public education must adapt down to the dysfunction. Who gives a shit about giving change when the only thing that matters is getting it.

LostInParadise's avatar

It has been many years since I went to school, and I don’t recall ever being taught how to give change. When I went to college, I worked in my father’s store in the summer. One of the first things he did was to explain how to give change. I might have previously had a vague notion of how to do it, but my initial impulse was to do mental arithmetic. Counting the change out is less error prone and, by saying out loud what you are doing, it confirms to the customer that the change is correct, although I can recall one or two times when the customer was completely baffled by the process.

JLeslie's avatar

I tend to be a math person, but I was never taught to “count back.” I subtract. When cashiers count back to me while giving me change I need to count in my mind the amount I believe to be the correct amount. The counting back tends to be noise to me, it’s distracting, because I think about it differently.

Now, that almost every store uses registers that calculate the change, and most transactions ruins are credit cards, cashiers don’t have practice calculating, or even giving change. Some stores have more cash transactions than others.

Some stores don’t like cashiers to take in different amounts than what was typed in, although that’s rare. Some registers go as far as the cashier puts in how many tens, twenties were received to pay for the item, but also very rare. I would say about 25% of the time cashiers don’t quite get it when I give extra change or singles to get a nice round number as change. Most do though.

jca's avatar

I’m pretty good at math but I think I’d probably get confused if I were a cashier and I typed in one amount and then the customer handed me more change. It would probably throw me off as far as counting out their change to them.

janbb's avatar

@jca You make a good point.

JLeslie's avatar

I always try to give the amount I’m going to give before they key it in. I’ll say, “let me see if I have the 17 cents,” or whatever it is, so they know I’m still hunting for money. I don’t always get it done that way though.

janbb's avatar

@JLeslie Yeah, I try to do that too. This time I didn’t. I saw the cashier again today and we talked about it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

OK, for those who may not know: The goal is to get to the first quarter you can. If the bill is .17 you give them 3 pennies to get to .20, then a nickle to get to .25, then you’re home free.

I think I shall sit my older grand kids down and teach them this. This and poker. Poker is a very Important Thing Every One Should Know.

JLeslie's avatar

^^If the bill is 17¢ and you don’t want pennies back you give 2¢. Or, did you mean the change is 17¢?

Anyway, I think everyone on this thread understands the point of adding extra change to get less coins back, fewer bills.

LostInParadise's avatar

The way I was taught to handle the extra pennies was to immediately subtract them from the cost. In @Dutchess_III ‘s example, providing an extra two pennies would mean making the cost 15 cents and then starting with a dime or two nickels to get to 25 cents.

JLeslie's avatar

^^Right. 2¢. @Dutchess_III wrote 3¢.

Dutchess_III's avatar

You guys are making this way too complicated. I was speaking from the clerk’s point of view. This is how to count back change.

ucme's avatar

My kids are 21 & 18, they know exactly how to do this as they always ask for change when giving money to the homeless, every penny counts & must be accounted for.
Obviously they learned this from me :D

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

It is easier in Canada. We got rid of the penny.

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