Failure, family, Rant

Maths – No More Passing The Buck.

“You’re just not getting it, are you?” The man said in a tone that made it clear he was losing his patience with my obvious stupidity.

Later, as I was retelling this story to Mark, he stopped me at that point and said: “That’s when you went ballistic, right?”



Standing at the tills in the high street shop, even though I knew, I KNEW, I was right, something stopped me from pointing out he was being incredibly rude.

And that something?

Simple maths.

I’d gone to the shop to take back a dress I’d bought Freya which came down to her ankles. The deal was the dresses should have been £8 each but if you bought two you got them for £6 each making them £12 and saving £4 (every little helps).

My plan was that I’d pick a different style from the ones in the same deal and swap it.

I explained it politely to the man.

He nodded.

He scanned the old dress.

He scanned the new dress.

He said: “That will be £2, please.”

I reached for my purse before I realised that no, that wasn’t right.

He pointed at the receipt and said: “You only paid £6 for the old dress and this one is £8.”

“I know but if I buy two dresses I get them for £6 each. That’s the deal. I have two dresses but I want to swap this dress for that dress using the same deal. I shouldn’t have to pay anything.”

He tried to explain it to me.

I tried (again) to explain it to him.

Then he resorted to insulting my intelligence.

I really hate rude behaviour (and I’m quite capable of saying so normally) but maths is my achilles heel. He was so adamant that he was right that I felt a tiny tingle of doubt; maybe I had got it wrong after all? I started to get bit flustered, even considered giving him the £2.

I’ve been feeling cross about it ever since.

I’m not sure when I realised I was rubbish at maths. Junior school, maybe? Certainly in high school when I was placed in the lower set (I got a D in GCSE maths, for the record).

It’s something of a standing joke within my family now.

The strange thing is, it’s not really the hard stuff I struggle with – I really enjoyed algebra, for example (maybe because it has letters in it!), and later, at work, I quite liked picking my way through council/company reports trying to work out where the money had gone.

It’s the basic stuff, especially if it’s on the spot, where I stumble. My brain just doesn’t work that way. Never get me to work out splitting a bill – unless you’re willing to pay for a bit of my lunch (at least that’s my excuse).

In those long months of pregnancy, I worried about who would help Freya with her homework (because, clearly, I didn’t have enough things to think about) but I told myself “Oh, Mark can deal with that side of things”.

This man made me think.

Passing the buck is no longer good enough.

I don’t need to be good at everything but I do wonder whether I’ve switched off to even trying now – and that’s not a great lesson to teach Freya. “Oh you can’t do it, let someone else do it for you.”

That’s why I found myself insisting to the man in the shop that I was right. I was just about to ask him to get his manager when he suggested refunding both dresses and starting again.

He gave me £6 back for some reason.

“I’m sorry it’s all coins,” he said, which was a bit bewildering.

“That’s ok, I’m going to give it back in just a second.”

He did his thing, eventually scanning the two dresses I wanted. They were indeed £12 and so I pushed the coins back across the counter to him.

I saw the exact moment it clicked in his head what I’d been asking.

I’m not sure what was going on.

Maybe he couldn’t put it through the till any other way. Maybe I didn’t explain what I wanted well enough but there was no need for his rudeness.

He did me a favour in one way because I’m determined to start having a go from now on (and I’ll hopefully get better at it).

Have you ever worried you’re not good enough in a certain subject or don’t have the right skills to be able to help your child?



16 thoughts on “Maths – No More Passing The Buck.”

  1. Oh that’s so rude of him! I am glad you got all sorted out in the end. I worry that I am not assertive enough, I am too willing to back down as I hate confrontation. I don’t know how I am going to teach Boo that she should stand up for what she believes in and what she knows is right, when I can’t. I am pretty sure I would have given the man the £2 and then gone home for a cry! Good on you for sticking to your guns (and not being rude back!!)


  2. Hi Tara, having two children in a foreign country where my grasp of the local language is not very good I did worry about helping our two in school, but it wasn’t so bad. Learning to read and write in Greek is a big thing in their first year at school and if they don’t reach a certain level they get held back a year. I was really pleased (and surprised) with how much I managed to help them both and it helped me to learn to read in the language. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to help my daughter, who is now seventeen and my Greek is still laughable (probably an understatement).

    I think much of our worries as parents stem from a lack of confidence, if only they taught that in schools! I bet you can help Freya far more than you think.



  3. Oh yes! My struggle is the same as yours. Numbers and I just don’t click and like you said, it’s mostly the simple things. I am assigned to do in class support in a fourth grade classroom this school year and I really feel like a dunce when I have to check over the students math worksheets and it takes me longer to work them out than it did for them!

    Glad you were able to work things out with the dresses, though. The clerk really should have apologized, especially after he discovered that you had been right all along.


    1. Oh dear, yes, I can see that would be a problem. I had some sort of vague idea about learning with her. My friend had to go to homework classes to learn how they teach maths and English these days!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Homework classes! I love it! A few years ago when I was helping with the fifth grade, I had to bring home one of the text books so I could teach myself the new method they were using for multiplication and division! It was sooooo complicated! Luckily someone saw how crazy it was and went back to the old fashioned tried and true method.


  4. What an arse! Him obviously, not you.
    I’m not mathematically inclined either, I can do it when I set my mind to it but generally my brain just utters; ‘Nope, not going there.”


    1. Hehe, thank you. My brain has just has a massive block where numbers are concerned (although thankfully it’s never really caused any problems).


    1. Oh wow! Hehe. I’ve been reading a fair bit about homeschooling (and unschooling) recently. It seems like there is room for you to learn with them, which I think is great.


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