The Story Behind the Numbers

“I hate math.” How many times did I say it when I was a child? Too many to count.

In fact, I continued to repeat the mantra well into college, tears of frustration welling up in my eyes as I stared at the Algebra textbook and wondered how in the hell I was ever going to get through it.

And no, I’m not a mathematician now, it isn’t that kind of heartwarming story. You put Trigonometry in front of me and I’ll laugh and walk away (and that’s the best-case scenario).

But I learned how important it was and why it mattered when I didn’t have enough pennies to rub together, when I was down to my last twenty dollars and trying to come up with rent, food, the water bill…whatever. And somewhere in the second or third rendition of College Algebra, all of those letters and numbers stopped rotating around in a tornado shaped funnel and actually started making sense (at least in the moment).

The pens she almost bought…

Smarter Shopping

The other day, Em and I were at Target. “Oh wow! Mechanical pencils with colored lead! Mom, I have to have these!”

The look on her face held excitement as she began to rummage in the purse she had actually remembered to bring for once.

“Now, hang on kiddo, these are really expensive.”

“I’m paying for it Mom, it’s okay.” The stubborn look on her face told me she wanted it bad.

“Look, I’ll make you a deal. I’ll bet you I can beat this price, these suckers are over $15! I tell you what, don’t buy these, we will take a picture of them, and I’ll look them up on Amazon and see if I can’t get a better deal and I’ll pay for them one way or the other. You just have to wait two days for them to come in.”

She reluctantly agreed and we snapped the photo and headed home.

Instead of $15.79 for six colors, I found a set of eight different colors for just $10.53. Em squealed and hugged me, “Mama, you are the best!” Two days later she was eagerly ripping the package open. Each pencil had 4 (heck, maybe it was just two) leads inside and I immediately wondered how fast they would run out.

Em wasn’t far behind with that thought and we both remembered seeing lead refills listed as well. I told her I would look into it, and a week later, as I was shopping for something else, I thought of them again and looked them up.

I typed in Pilot colored lead refills and this result instantly came up…

I noticed a second listing for a cheaper price and investigated further…

It turned out that the first one listed, the one that cost $15.92, had just six leads of each color, versus ten leads of each color in the cheaper one. I bought it and it arrived today.

Not So Fast, Kid

Em walked into my office and spied the leads sitting on my desk. “You got them!” She started to reach for them and I shook my head.

“Uh uh, you have to answer a math question for me before you get these.”

“What? No way!”

“Yep.” I pointed to the board…

“It’s not important. We don’t need it!”

I laughed, “Sorry kid, but that’s not going to get you these lead refills.”

She groaned, “What is then?”

I wrote down the math questions and we worked through them.

“So, wait, the slightly more expensive one was actually a lot more expensive and for less leads!” Her eyes were shining and she had a slightly shocked look on her face. “In fact, you could get…” she scribbled for a moment, “the second set of leads for less than half of what the first ones would cost!”

I smiled at her, “And that’s why math is important. At first glance, sure the second one is what you would pick and you would think, ‘Well, I saved a couple of bucks,’ but really you just paid half of the price of the first one. Math tells us stories, shares secrets, if only we know where to look.”

So that’s a win for this homeschooling mom. My kiddo wanted those lead refills so bad that she did math at 9:00 at night, on a weekend.

Bonus points – I got a huge hug and “best mom ever” bestowed upon me before she skipped off to her room with lead refills in hand.

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