Education Opinion

Make math make “cents”

By Jessica Shyu — May 15, 2007 2 min read
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Dear U.S. Department of the Treasury,

Everyday around the world, people go hungry. Wars are fought. Lives are lost for seemingly pointless reasons.

It is indeed a cruel and unjust world.

So why make it any harder? Do you realize how difficult it is to count combinations of coins when you have to deal with quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies? Sure, it might not seem like too much of a headache for most people, but there are thousands of folks out there with (and without!) disabilities who struggle to figure out what 1 quarter, 3 dimes, 7 nickels and 3 pennies equals.

Why not keep it simple with just dimes and pennies? It’s a heck of a lot easier to count by tens and ones, and remember that the number of dimes go in the tenths place while the number of pennies goes in the hundredths.

And while we’re talking about tens and ones, why couldn’t we have just stuck with $1, $10, $100 bills, and so on? Trust me, it’s a lot easier to figure out correct combinations of bills and coins when you know which place each type of bill goes. Those $20 and $5 bills really just get in the way and make money more confusing. Thank goodness the $2 bill never caught on. Imagine the havoc that would have wreaked in special education classrooms.

Also, whose bright idea was it to make dimes smaller than nickels? If you just had to throw nickels into the mix, why make them bigger?

And if you were going to make money different sizes and colors, WHY don’t you write its numerical value on it like other currencies around the world? Visitors to our country routinely have the same complaint.

I’m a special education teacher whose students with severe disabilities have struggled to count money and make change. They’re leaning it, but not without first taking away those darn $20, $5, quarters and nickels. It’s difficult for them to learn in general, and made even more difficult because our money system just isn’t very sensible. But they trudge along and learn it, because they know that otherwise they’ll continue to get cheated in stores, and that they’ll continue to rely on others to do basic things, like buy gum at the gas station.

I still appreciate everything you do for us, especially that tax return I just got. But I hope you realize the trouble you’ve caused. Don’t feel like you’re alone, however. I also have a beef with the American system of measurement and whoever set up the analog clock.

Yours truly,

Jessica Shyu

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