Monday, April 20, 2015

Allowance Arithmetic

Our family has moved away from Mommy Dollars as a form of currency (pause to shed a tear or two . . . sniffle . . . sigh . . . okay, now we can return to the topic at hand).  We've moved to an allowance system that I'm really enjoying, that I'll describe more later.  For now, it's enough to say that my teenage sons get $5/week.

Of course, the amount a parent gives a child depends on many things, including the child.  And with that said, I would like to share True Questions of an Allowance Getter:

On a week after we'd skipped allowance one week -- so he was about to get $10 instead of the usual $5 -- N-son asked me:

"If I give one dollar to church and save $4.50,
how much money do I have left?   
Is it $3.50?  Is it $2.50?"

What's most interesting to me as a Math Mom is how he arrived at these numbers.  N-son is a pleaser: he wants to do what's right by his mom.  We've drilled in the "tithe" lesson enough that N-son now automatically begins with setting aside $1 for church.   (This doesn't necessarily mean he knows that $1 is what you get when you compute 10% of $10; he'll often set aside $1 out of a $5 allowance for church.)

Having subtracted $1 from $10, he then decided to divide the remaining money in half, and devoted the first half to savings.  I think it's remarkable both that he can figure half of $9 in his head, and also that he's absorbed my lessons enough that savings, not spending, is the the second item in the list.

But here came the problem.  In his head, he had to reconcile all these numbers.  There's something about $4.50, and he's giving $1 to church, so does that mean only $3.50 left?  But when he repeats the problem in his head -- there's $3.50, but he gave $1 to church -- is there only $2.50 left?  Keeping so many different quantities straight is really tough.  

With careful and kind logic, we determined that under these circumstances, the amount N-son can spend is actually a full $4.50.  At this point, we left the realm of arithmetic and embarked on applied philosophy.  Miser Mom asked her child, "If you’re going to spend $4.50, what are you going to spend it on?  Will it make you happy?"  N-son carefully wrote, "What  I think i'm going to spend my 4.50 is food for when I get hungry and i'm not home".

Good choice.  (Although I *do* feed my sons, I swear!)

The choices part is the reason I love our current allowance system so much.  But that's the part I'll write more about later.


  1. You are such an inspirational parent, wish I had access to your knowledge when I had little ones around!

    1. Inspirational . . . irritation-al . . . depends on who you ask! But I appreciate the atta-girl. -MM