Not making cents

Long division is “a crucial skill necessary to understand more advanced math concepts,” writes The Instructivist, quoting The Role of Long Division in the K-12 Curriculum by David Klein and R. James Milgram.

The role of long division is not just to divide one rational number by another, but the algorithm itself contains the initial exposure of topics which become crucial in the core applications of mathematics in our society today. Following the introduction, we discuss methods for teaching long division in such a way that the underlying concepts can be understood by students. We then provide more details about the ways in which these concepts develop in later mathematics course, and why they are so important.

Understanding concepts can come in handy. What happens when people only know how to punch numbers in a calculator? Katie, an Instructivist reader, provided a link to a conversation between a phone customer and a number of customer reps who were unable to tell the difference betwen .02 cents and .02 dollars. Instructivist concludes:

What is absolutely hilarious is that at the end the rep (supervisor) declares that the difference between the customer’s correct math and the rep’s fuzzy math is a matter of opinion.

For those of you who don’t do YouTube, here’s the print version and another link to the audio if the first doesn’t work for you.

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  1. Looks like YouTube pulled the clip. Hmm.

  2. Can they use the fuzzy math when calculating the payment for the textbooks?

  3. Independent George says:

    I’m at work, so I haven’t heard the audio yet, but given the tone both his blog and the published letters, I get the feeling that his own behavior might be behind a lot of the poor service. This is not to make excuses for the error – he is justified about wanting his account credited – but the blog actually makes him seem like a jerk as much as it makes the customer service reps seem stupid. We’ve all had lousy experiences with service reps, and they were pretty clearly in the wrong in this case – but his own words make me think picked a fight to make himself seem smart rather than try to resolve an issue.

    Can anyone who’s heard the audio comment? I admit I’m shooting from the hip here, and I’ll gladly backtrack (with apologies) if I’m way off base here. I just think that those letters he wrote are a great example of how not to get your money back (though he did evidently succeed in getting a credit on his account).

  4. IG, I listened to the first minute or so of the audio clip. I’ve wasted precious time dealing with Verizon myself in the past (they double-charged me for a service, then attempted to convince me that I was actually reading my bill wrong and I was seeing a credit, not a debit), so the prospect of listening to 27 minutes of Kafkaesque phone hell didn’t appeal to me.

    I will say that the blogger sounded rather tired and a wee bit crabby at the beginning of the phone call. OTOH, this, I am convinced, is Verizon’s goal: They hope to get their disgruntled customers to give up and go away. The guy had already spent 45 minutes on the phone trying to get this sorted out. It really takes the patience of a saint (or maybe copious doses of benzodiazapenes) not to sound cranky or aggravated after that.

    The only thing one can really do is keep pestering such a company until they give in.