Additional Math Pages & Resources

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Please Check Twice

Excel Math is a curriculum that presents mathematics to elementary school age kids. One of the many math-related topics we cover is money. Whatever the country or language or age, money interests almost everyone.

Today there are many ways to pay your bills - cash, check, credit card, debit card, money transfer, gift card, web bill pay, etc. There are about 100 million families in the USA, with around 175 million bill-paying bank accounts, and each family pays an average of 10 bills a month.

We talk to kids about money and how to pay. We teach them about currency and paper money. We ask them to make change at a register. We help them develop money-handling skills, and we help them practice writing checks.We don't yet help them make purchase at the App Store or finance their school lunch accounts.

At the same time, we (educators) are getting older and more brain-dead, leading to checks like this one I received today:

Poorly-written check, minus the personal and account information

Notice the check (which was sent to me) has $2500.00 in the amount box, but Twenty-five and no 100 in the amount line. Which is correct? Should I deposit the check? I'm quite certain the bank will pay me $25.00 and not $2500.00, but I should notify the sender first, to save us both embarrassment.

I've read promotional literature for on-line payment systems which claim to eliminate mis-written checks!  


1. How about the on-line payment I sent last quarter for a cable bill. I sent $49.11 instead of $49.71. Darn! My fault. Where are my glasses?

2. Let's consider the on-line payment snafu last year when I sent $100.03 to AT&T for my home phone and $39.57 to pay my iPhone bill. Same company (sort of) but wrong direction. The overpaid home bill division didn't care, but the mobile phone people objected. Rats, my fault again.

3. I can't explain why I sent the City of San Diego the money for my water bill twice - once from home and once while on the road, because my house-sitter said "there's a bill here you should pay now" and I didn't remember having paid it before leaving on vacation. Honest, folks, I did make two payments, both in advance. Once again, my mistake.

4. Can you imagine that a publisher might "accidentally take" a couple extra payments after I had cancelled my subscription? We caught them. This time it was not my error but theirs!



(5 and 6 are vacant so you can insert your own most recent mis-payment incidents)

This happens to everyone. College graduates, math book editors, scientists, bankers, farmers - even if you are relatively good at paying all your bills - you can still make mistakes with money.

You might hand over a $20 instead of a $10; you might use a dollar coin instead of a quarter. You might withdraw cash from your bank using your credit card instead of your debit card - and not notice until the fees appear on a statement. I'm not talking here about esoteric issues like picking the wrong stock broker or missing out on the last .10% on a Certificate of Deposit.

I mean: Read your bills! Pay attention! Double-check your work! As you do in math class, you should do in real life.

Non-profit agencies commonly require double-signature check systems to reduce errors and embezzlement, and large companies employ use double-signature check systems for large checks.

Excel Math helps kids learn to double-check their own work before handing in Lesson Sheets, finishing a test, pressing SEND or putting the check IN THE MAIL.

A double-check now beats a double check later.

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