Home > Math Lint Archive Detail

<< Prev 12/16/2005 Next >>

Making Change

Where is Ann Landers when we don't need her? In a recent "Asking Amy" column in our local newspaper, someone complained about how cashiers return change to customers.

Suppose your bill was $3.76 and you paid with a $5 bill. One option is that you will be given the 24 cents in change first and then the one dollar bill...or, that you will be be given the one dollar bill first and then the 24 cents in change?

Which option do you prefer, and moreso, any idea why there even are the two options?

Amy's response is that the first option is due to old traditions, in that the cashier would hand you four pennies (and say that makes $3.80), then hand you two dimes (and say that makes $3.90 and $4.00), and then hand you a one dollar bill (and say that makes $5). In turn, Amy claims the second option is due to new technology-based traditions, in that the computerized terminal prints out the cost of $3.76, the amount rendered of $5, and then prints out the required change of $1.24, which the cashier counts out from left to right (a dollar bill, two dimes, and four pennies).

Interesting...I had never thought of it this way...but Amy seems to have missed one major point: my first wish is that cashiers are competent enough mathematically to even count out (or make) the correct change regardless of the way used! Once they have reached that stage, then I will worry about their understanding of what 0.99 cents means.