If Technology Fails, Use Basic Math Skills - Count Manually!! by @johnkaiser13

Technology has inevitably been inserted to nearly all aspects of our lives today. First and foremost, the use of computerised cash registers have been around for a few decades now. Trying to remember cash registers which operated without a digital display might be nearly impossible. The generation which might be able to do so has been replaced with a new generation who depend on technology to a large degree. The dependence on new technology is starting to ‘show signs’ of the effect of converting from our analogue counterparts. Below is an example that I recently experienced the effect of technology in a transaction at a doughnut shop.

Can I please buy a Pastry?

The other day, I was visiting a newly opened ‘doughnut’ shop in my neighbourhood. For those who are unfamiliar with what a ‘doughnut’ is — a ‘doughnut’ is a pastry circular in shape and typically with a ‘hole’ in the centre of it. A picture is shown above in the featured image.

Anyways, a new doughnut shop opened recently and I decided to go and check out the selection and service. When I arrived at the shop, I immediately jumped into line to order. Here is a dialogue below of the interaction with the cashier that day:

Cashier: Hello…Welcome to Dunkin Donuts, how can I help you?

Mike: Hello, can I please get a Bavarian creme doughnut and a large coffee?

Cashier: Is that going to it for you today?

Mike: Yes, please.

Cashier: The total is going to be $4.68

I reach into my pocket and pull out a $20.00 bill and hand the bill to her. She stalls and looks down. Then looks up at me with a confused (semi-panicked) look on her face as she holds the $20 bill:

Cashier: “Umm….Ok, I am going to need my phone … or a calculator. I typed into the cash register $5 for the amount tendered (given to her).”

Cashier:”Can I get a piece of paper?” (to a co-worker as she walks by)

Cashier: “I am going to need to calculate the change.”

At this point, I realized that she expected me to give her a $5 bill rather than a $20 bill. Furthermore, she was struggling to determine the correct change. The amount displayed on the cash register was the following:

Change: $ 0.32
Amount: $5.00

At this point, I realised that I was in ‘real-time’ experiencing the downfall of technology for the modern generation. Furthermore, I was witnessing an anxiety attack with the only solution in sight to be the comfort of a digital device — which is worrisome. Below, I show the “old fashioned” way of making change without the use of an electronic device along with “old fashioned” breathing to relieve the anxiety brought on by such a mistake.

Look At The Digital Display

The (old fashioned) method of making the change when the incorrect amount tendered was given was simply to look at the display. I gave the cashier a $20 bill. The display had the correct change for a $5 bill. The following steps could have been taken to achieve the correct change:

Step 1: Open the cash register and pull out the $0.32 to make $5.

Step 2: Take out a $10 bill and a $5 bill to combine with the $ 0.32 to make the change of $15.32 — totalling $20.00

Easy enough right? Alternatively, knowing the total $4.68 — start by counting up to 100 to make the change for $0.68 to make a $1. Then, count to $20.00 using either three $5 bills or a single $5 bill and a single $10 as advised above. There is no need to panic in this situation. Just use your basic mathematical skills taught in elementary school. The larger issue in the following situation is understanding how stress and anxiety play into our natural dependence on digital devices.

Don’t Let Anxiety/Stress Hinder Your Basic Skills!

Over the past few years, with the rise of the digital landscape becoming increasingly dominant in our lifestyles, we are becoming dependent on these various devices throughout our day. The problem is becoming widespread enough that the life coaching industry experts are suggesting setting down our devices an hour before bedtime to reduce damage done by the ‘blue screen’. Evidently, engaging with a device before bed has been shown to degrade the quality and quantity of sleep. Although, no credible scientific study has shown such a trend - yet.

Additionally, experts suggest trying to avoid checking emails or engaging with our devices upon awakening. Both this act and engaging with our devices before bedtime increases our dependence on the device. Have you ever woken up and wondered where your cell phone is? Or woken up and immediately reached for a device and felt reassured? Maybe this is going too far at the moment, but watch your behaviour in the future.

The cashier at Dunkin Donuts appeared to suffer from stress and anxiety the moment she was confronted with the reality that she typed in the wrong amount into the cash register. Maybe she assumed that I would hand her a $5 bill. Which might be based on the frequency of this denomination handed to her when a customer pays with cash. Regardless, she had a slight panic attack. And her solution to the panic attack was to resort to a digital device rather than basic mathematical skills. I find this very interesting. Anxiety is real and all of us have varying degrees of it in any given situation. That is not the issue.

The issue at the doughnut shop was that instead of slowing down and talking herself through the situation while breathing, she thought that a digital device would more easily solve her immediate problem and her anxiety. She could have set the $20 bill down on the register and then breathed and started counting up to $20. In the process, she would have solved two issues at once - anxiety and the sale. Instead, she chose what felt natural to her - to search for a digital device to solve her issues.


One major downfall of the emergence of new technology is the liability that each of us will become dependent upon the use at critical times. This may lead to an increase in anxiety and stress levels among us. When was the last time you had to commit a phone number to memory? We have become increasingly reliant on these devices. There is no doubt that the rise of technology has called for transformations in the educational landscape too. Although, all is not lost with respect to basic skills - math, writing, reading, etc.

Technology may help us tremendously on a day to day basis. But remember, when the device runs out of energy, or the operator enters the wrong value (such as in a cash register), the response is returned to our basic skill set of logic and reasoning. That does not mean that anxiety should be present when technology fails. We need to return to the belief in our basic skill set we learn in K-12 from time to time.

In closing, I will admit that I have typed all my notes at work and have barely written a note in months. As a result, my handwriting is terrible. I noticed this the other day while writing a note to my wife. I decided to take action and start a journal to remind myself (or retrain) to return to those skills which are basic to me. Until next time, I hope that each of you thinks about returning to those basic skills which are overshadowed by an App or other features on a digital device.

Original Article can be found here:


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Hello Everyone, My name is Mike and I am an instrument manager in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department at California State University at Northridge (USA). I am interested in the dissemination of science knowledge to the public at large. Part of the motivation behind blogging is to demystify the life of a scientist to the public. This includes how scientists view various statistics and facts that are presented in the popular news. Furthermore, to verify the statistics and facts through approximations using publicly available resources on the internet. I believe that elevating the scientific knowledge of the public will result in a more environmentally friendly (sustainable) citizenship on the planet and better science policy on a local governmental level. A more informed public is a healthier public. My twitter handle is @johnkaiser13. I write at the blog site: www.jmkthought.blogspot.com. Please feel free to comment and share concerns and thoughts on future blog topics. I look forward to sharing my blogs with you in the future. Have a great day! Sincerely, J. Mike Kaiser
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