Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Stupid Up Close--Half of a quarter?

Several months ago, certain employees at the deli demonstrated such poor math skills that one of the older workers put up a sign:

3/4=0.75
2/3=0.66
1/2=0.50
1/3=0.33
1/4=0.25


I majored in English but I had a hard time believing anyone really needed that. I would have thought that someone who didn't know how to convert "one half" to decimal form wouldn't need to ask more than once but apparently I vastly overestimated the intelligence of the general public.

My optimism was shattered two days ago. About a week earlier, one of the workers had asked me, "What's an eighth?"

Thinking she just couldn't convert it from a fraction, I said, "Half of a fourth--one two five."

She stared blankly so I said, "Zero point one two or zero point one three." (The register doesn't go to thousandths.)

Another worker took her arm, showed her a scale, and then said to me, "You have to explain it dumber to some people."

The same worker asked me what an eighth was again this Sunday.

I tried to slowly say, "It will ring up as point one two or point one three."

She stared at me and said, "So it's more than a pound?"

It suddenly occurred to me what the problem was--she wasn't having trouble converting from a fraction, she didn't know what an eighth was.

The same worker who helped her before explained it to her in simpler terms.

The rest of the day she was proud with herself that she'd been so smart as to root for the Steelers.

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