Summing It Up

Saturday was pocket money day when we were kids and Dad always made a big deal out of the ritual. He insisted that all three of us kids were present for the pay out.

This came back to me as I was pottering around the kitchen this morning and one episode dominated the whole recollection. I think it was the Saturday after my 6th birthday and Dad announced that we were all due a rise. There was a sliding scale and I was at the bottom of it because I am the youngest. My rate prior to the rise was ten pence and I always got it in ten single copper coins.

Irish Penny Coin

On that Saturday, Dad handed me one small silver coin ~ a shilling ~ which was equal to twelve pennies so it was a rise of twopence.

One Shilling Coin

Much to Dad’s horror, I burst into uncontrollable tears and was so upset I couldn’t even explain to him what was wrong with me. Eventually, he got the message that I had loved the ten coins and didn’t want just one. It took him ages to explain that a shilling was twopence more than a shilling and the only way he could placate me was to give me twelve copper pennies.

I still have a grand theory that small denominations last longer and always steer away from say a 50 euro note and go for ten 5 euro notes, if at all possible.

Oddly enough, pocket money was the only money that was unequally divided between the three of us. As a result of this, we all became absolute experts at dividing by three. I still think of a pound note meaning six shillings and eight pennies each. Christmas tended to be a time when pound notes would drop out of Christmas cards to be divided between the kids!

I should stress that all three of us were HOPELESS at maths in the academic sense but we where whizzes when it came to money and time!  The time bit arose because Mother was absolutely insistent that we could only watch 30 minutes television each per day. This give rise to lots and lots of negotiations as we poured over the newspaper’s television listings for the three channels that we had on the black and white telly. There are three years between each of us in age terms so it was rather difficult to find programmes that we all wanted to watch. Mother had to do a bit of refereeing to ensure that I got to see at least a few of the ‘babyish’ programmes, like Mr. Ed, the talking horse:

The whole business of having to be very discerning about what we watched has stayed with all three of us and there is no question whatever that any of us will have the television on in the background. It only goes on for very specific programmes and then gets turned off.

Mother had another little ploy when it came to dividing food that we liked. She’d tell one of us to cut say three slices of cake and then ensure that the cutter was given the smallest piece!  So, we’re all dab hands now at cutting a whole into equal parts.

I wonder if other families had/have rituals along these lines that are about what I call ‘real world’ mathematics.