Decimal Displacement

January 29, 2013 at 10:46 am 4 comments

I used to dislike math, but then I realized that decimals have a point.

For instance, they separate dollars from cents in prices, as shown on the price tag of a Black Brown 1826 shirt that I received as a gift from my mother-in-law:

Shirt Price

Like me, you may be wondering: Why would they include four zeroes instead of just two after the decimal point?

My first thought was that Black Brown 1826 was a London-based company. The tag shows the price in U.S. dollars, so it would make sense that a British company would display the price in U.S. dollars to four decimal places — currency pairs are often expressed to four decimal places.

But that’s not the case. Black Brown 1826 is a clothing line at Lord + Taylor, which is a North American company.

My second thought was that the designer of the line might be European. But nope. The line was designed by Joseph Abboud, an American designer.

My third thought was… well, actually, I didn’t have a third thought. And I still have no idea why the price is expressed to four decimal places.

Do you know why there would be four decimal places shown in the price? If you have a theory, leave a comment.

The location of the decimal point is often a mystery to kids, too, but not for this student…

A math teacher wrote 15.1 on the board. “This is what happens if we multiply by 10,” she said, and then erased the decimal point.

“Now where’s the decimal point?” she asked.

A student answered, “On the eraser!”

But decimal points can also pose problems for adults…

A colleague noticed a new spot on the carpet in the hallway. “Quick! Call the accounting department!” he yelled. “See if they misplaced a decimal point again!”

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Chris Smith  |  January 29, 2013 at 11:31 am

    Maybe it’s to shock you into thinking the price is $590000 and then you realise the decimal point is there and are somehow convinced that in comparison that is a cracking bargain?!

    • 2. venneblock  |  January 30, 2013 at 8:01 am

      Whoa! A 99.99% discount! That would be awesome.

  • 3. cdm  |  January 29, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Cheating by using google, I found this link:
    Short version: once you add in VAT, it comes out to a nice even two-decimaled number. That doesn’t really explain why your example is all zeroes.

    • 4. venneblock  |  January 30, 2013 at 8:07 am

      So, said another way, the program takes a four-digit input, and then cranks out a four-digit result where (at least) the last two digits are zeroes. Hmm… I suppose that could have been what happened here… but then it’s just sloppy to not tell the program to print only the first two digits after the dot.

      Thanks for the info, cdm!


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The Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks blog is an online extension to the book Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks. The blog contains jokes submitted by readers, new jokes discovered by the author, details about speaking appearances and workshops, and other random bits of information that might be interesting to the strange folks who like math jokes.

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