Is there a mental math merit badge?

It’s Girl Scout Cookie Season, which means…arithmetic? It’s one of the few occasions that requires me to pay cash to someone who isn’t standing in front of a register, and I was happy to see that the mom handling the money started making change for my 20 without reaching for any sort of computational assistance.

I love calculators as much as the next person (probably more, actually), but there’s a time and a place for them, and basic arithmetic isn’t it. Back in the day, kids would complain about having to learn how to do arithmetic. “We have calculators for this,” they’d exclaim, and teachers would respond that no one carries a calculator with them at all times. Fast forward twenty years, and now we have calculators built into our phones. But who really wants to whip out their phone every time they want to multiply three times four or subtract twelve from twenty? I can tell you that, based on my experience as a teacher, tutor, and general math-doer, it’s much easier, faster, and more reliable to apply basic arithmetic facts than it is to break out a phone, open up an app, and punch the correct buttons on a touchscreen.

This is especially true when dealing with hordes of cookie fiends, and extra-specially true in my particular case.

Girl Scout Mom: “Change for a twenty…” Me: “No, I’m buying five boxes. Girl Scout Mom: “Bless you.”

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