Friday, March 05, 2010

Mental Calculation versus Electronic Calculation

"Well, that would be payment for 3 sets of newspapers," I said to Raj, the son of my friendly neighbourhood grocer. I always buy the Straits Times and New Paper from the store. Sometimes when I am in a rush, I would just pick up the set and would pay for two or three sets together.

Raj took out his usual calculator. When I no longer could take it anymore, I said,
"That would be $1.60 times 3, Raj, making it $4.80. No need calculator lah."

Good natured Raj smiled. "Aiyo, I can't count like my grandpa lah. He is from India, and at that time, India, they had no calculator so Grandpa must use his brain lah", Raj attempted to explain.

I smiled and said, "I never passed Mathematics in school also. But mental sums very good. Last time calculators were very expensive....could not afford to buy. So had to use my otak (brain). Even if I had calculators, found it hard to use them. Know why? My fingers too fat for the small keys lah!", I said and raised my eyes in mock despair.

Raj laughed. "Don't worry. Apples is going to make calculators with huge keys for people like you."

"Don't kid Raj. I bought a calculator with huge keys for only $8/-. But find it easier to do simple calculation with my head because of sheer habit. Papa was poor, and I was always so protective of papa's hard earned money. Whenever I went marketing with mama, I was always eagle eyed to see that no one gave mama the wrong change! I had corrected a few vendors' wrong change to mama!"

Now, I only use the calculator when I close a property deal, as I want to be very, very accurate. Otherwise, I find it easier to calculate mentally. Before the sales staff could calculate the total costs of my purchase, I would give him the figure, much to his surprise.

I guess the experts are right. When we don't train ourselves to do something, we will soon lose the ability to do so. If someone like me who dislike numbers and Mathematics can calculate without the use of machines, anyone also can lah!

My best friend, Soh Wah, chided me for not asking for newspapers to be delivered to my home. I told her that sometimes I could read the newspapers in the Raffles Town Club or at my regular saloon when I go for hair treatment. A penny saved is a penny earned. Moreover, I would have less worries with recycling of papers.

Gan Cao

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