Math at Work Monday: Tina the Executive Director with Mary Kay Cosmetics

eye makeup

You have more than likely heard of Mary Kay Cosmetics.  Tina Frantz, is an Executive Senior Sales Director with Mary Kay Cosmetics.  When she  started with Mary Kay, I am sure she had no idea how much math was going to be involved.  Read on to see how math plays a really big part!  

Can you explain what you do for a living? 

I sell Mary Kay products to people all over the United States.  Other aspects of my job include mentoring other women in the business, teaching them skills to build a successful Mary Kay business including time management skills, business management, money management, emotional management, and other skills specific to the field of buying and selling these products. I also teach customers and consultants how to apply cosmetics to themselves and how to take great care of their skin. I oversee the efforts of 900+ women in Mary Kay.  Then, I directly teach and coach over 200+ women and men.

When do you use basic math in your job?

I use math every day in my field. Specifically, when I am calculating sales and tax.  Simple addition and subtraction is key. Calculating sales tax using percentages is a daily application. On a larger scale, we use math to set goals and break down goals, using averages and numbers all the time. For example, we know that the AVERAGE skin care party will retail around $275.00. We also know that we profit 50 percent of everything we sell. So, if we want to make an average of $400 in profit per week, we should hold about three parties per week. We also know that the average hold rate is 50 percentage. So, to hold three parties, we need to book six parties.

Also, calculating my paycheck is really fun too. I use percentages a lot for that as well. We make 50 percent off everything we sell, but we also make a percentage on what our team sells. That percentage changes depending on the number of people on our team. So, math is very useful and helpful for those purposes as well.

I also track all of my totals to determine what I need to do differently or where my focus needs to be for the next week or month. We are always tracking how many faces we do as a whole group, how much product we sell, and how many people are starting new businesses with us. This helps us to see what we may need to improve on or what we are doing well.

Do you use any technology (like calculators or computers) to help with this math?

I use calculators to determine the percentages and when calculating sales tax. I also use a calculator for calculating my check when the numbers aren’t easy, especially when building a team and adding the sales of the team. However, finding 50 percent is easy because it’s just half of whatever the total number is.

A series of studies over a long period of time determined the averages that I use. I am always tracking numbers daily and weekly to see if theses averages stay true. I track my numbers using a spreadsheet on a computer or tablet.

How do you think math helps you do your job better?

Using math and numbers in my career helps me focus on what makes money. It also helps me to focus on the reality of the effort I am putting into the business, instead of the feelings I may be having about it. Math puts things in black and white. So, if I are feeling frustrated about my results, I can look at my activity and then see that it’s no surprise why the results are the way that they are.  Also, I can see how I can increase without being frustrated. It helps me see where our efforts need to be each month. It also helps goals seem more attainable. Mary Kay always said, “You can’t eat an elephant whole, but you can eat it piece by piece.” By breaking down numbers, I can see how truly attainable a “bigger” goal is.

How comfortable with math do you feel? 

I feel very comfortable with the math at work. I have not always felt that way. I have had great training and education specifically on how to use this math at work so my comfort level is very high.

What kind of math did you take in high school?

I got through calculus in high school and college. I was not comfortable with it and still don’t feel comfortable with all forms of math. I always felt that I was good at it until my junior year when taking pre-calc. After that, I lost a lot of interest.

Did you have to learn new skills in order to do the math you use in your job?

It was something that I picked up with the skills I obtained in school. However, there were a few times when I needed help. But now, I feel like a PRO! :)

There is a lot to this job, right?  I find it inspiring!  Tina uses a great deal of math to get her products in the hands of customers. If you would like to know more about Tina’s job, let me know and I will connect you with her.

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Math at Work Monday: Beth the Educator


We owe a great big thanks to teachers! They equip us with many of the basic skills that we use on a daily basis.  Beth McBride has been an educator for over twenty-nine years, and currently she is a seventh-grade language arts teacher.  I got the chance to speak with her about her job and the use of math in her daily work.

Can you explain what you do for a living? 

I educate students at the middle school level in standards related to reading, writing and vocabulary.

When do you use basic math in your job?

Grading is one place where math is used.  The actual computation is done through electronic grade programs, but weighting values of assignments is still a human process.  Math is used to analyze test results and gauge student learning.

Do you use any technology (like calculators or computers) to help with this math?

Absolutely!  My strength is English. In the middle school, math teachers and English teachers have a healthy respect for and rivalry against each other.

How do you think math helps you do your job better?

Math is an exercise in reasoning, problem solving and utilizing already proven strategies to get where you want to go. Life is an exercise in reasoning, problem solving and utilizing already proven strategies to get where you want to go.

What kind of math did you take in high school?

I took all of the required college prep courses. I LOVED geometry, but the only “D” I have ever received in my life was in high school algebra. My father, an engineer, insisted on “helping” me, and his older methods were different than those I learned in school. I “fired” him and got a B.

Did you have to learn new skills in order to do the math you use in your job?

Several years ago, I taught all subjects.  There was a point when we adopted a variant math program, and I had to relearn many concepts in a new way to present as the state believed it should be taught.  It is difficult to relearn something you know using a variant method. Now, I understand how my father felt in the above scenario.

As we see every week in the Math at Work Monday series, math plays a vital role in more jobs than we realize.  Educators like Beth give us many of the skills we need to succeed in life.

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Math at Work Monday: Tammy the Purchasing Coordinator

purchasing coordinator

When we purchase a product we do not even think of the processes that have to take place in order for the product to reach our hands.  So much is involved on the back end of things. Tammy Landrum is the purchasing coordinator BSF, Inc., and she understands the entire process including the math.

Can you explain what you do for a living? 

I work in the purchasing department, and I have been in this profession for seven and a half years.  Our company makes pump motor adaptors.  I process all of the purchase orders, and I purchase products from outside sources that are needed to complete the orders we receive.  I schedule shipments and create documents needed by our machinists in order to make the parts and the documents needed by our shipping department to ship the parts.

When do you use basic math in your job?

I use math each day when I send an order acknowledgement to the customer verifying the cost on each order. Sometimes I have to cost the part before I process the order.  Costing involves calculating the cost to manufacture the part during each phase of production and the marking that price up by a certain percentage to produce our profit margin.

Do you use any technology (like calculators or computers) to help with this math?

Yes, I use a computer everyday to input the orders and also to cost the orders. We have a configuration that calculates the price of each part. We quote the part to a customer and they place the order.

How do you think math helps you do your job better?

I would not be able to calculate the total amount due for each order without using math. Also, I could not calculate the price of each part without math.

How comfortable with math do you feel? 

I’m somewhat comfortable with math. I don’t have to do many calculations in my head.  I have a computer for that so I don’t think I would be very comfortable doing my job without my computer.

What kind of math did you take in high school?

I took algebra and basic math.  I liked math a lot. I always did well in my math classes.

Did you have to learn new skills in order to do the math you use in your job?

I had to learn to use the software programs needed to do my job. I think my basic math skills made it easier for  me to learn what I needed to in order to do my job well.

Anything else you want to mention?

Math is important in our everyday lives. We use it more than we realize.

Of course, if you want to learn more about the role of math in the job position of purchasing coordinator, just reach out to me, and I will connect with her.

Photo Credit: naezmi via Compfight cc

Confession: I See Numbers Differently. (And it’s not what you think.)

6 is an awesome number

I’ve shared about this little quirk I have on Facebook and to my friends and family, but this is the first time I’ve ever written it down. And I’ll admit it. I’m a little nervous. Either I’m going to come off looking like a total weirdo or like the adorable, kooky geek that I feel like. I’m hoping it’s the latter, but if it’s the first, please be kind.

Here goes.

I personify numbers.

You read that right. In my mind, the digits 1 through 9 not only have genders and personalities and ages — they have relationships. Yep, there’s a whole nursery book of stories going on in my head when numbers cross my mind. And, strangely enough, great kiddie lit didn’t put this idea in my head.

This phenomenon is called ordinal-linguistic personification. (It has a name!) And a definition: it is the automatic process of assigning personalities to sequential linguistic units–including letters, numbers, months, days and more. This is a subset of the larger condition called synesthesia, in which the senses, words, colors and other incongruous experiences all meld together. Someone with synesthesia might “taste” colors or see bright hues in letters.

Me? I have always known numbers to have personalities. Like for as long as I can remember.

Let me introduce you to the family:

0 is god-like. It has no gender but is recognized as the spiritual guide of all of the other numbers.

1 is male and very passive. He’s middle aged, perhaps the patriarch of the number family.

2 is female and extremely bossy. Married to 1, she is the matriarch of the number family.

3 is male and a loner. He’s somewhat angry, but he generally keeps to himself.

4 is female. She’s sweet and easy to get along with, but she will stand up for herself. Her brother is 3.

5 is female and bossy. She particularly likes to tell 4 what to do, but in a sisterly way.

6 is male and passive. He’s married to 4, who is head over heels in love with him.

7 is male and neutral. Like 3, he’s a bit of a loner, but he’s not angry.

8 is male and friendly. He’s particularly fond of 4 but in a brotherly sort of way.

9 is male and sneaky. He doesn’t get along with anyone but 3.

Multi-digit numbers, like 10 or 99, also have personalities, largely based on the personalities of the single digits. So 99 is super-duper sneaky, while 64 is a really trustworthy, happy number.

It took me years and years to admit that I see numbers this way. When I was in my 20s, my uncle fessed up that he does the same thing. That’s an interesting fact, because synesthesia runs in families and is passed down maternally. More women than men have this characteristic, and more lefties than righties. (I’m a righty, by the way, but my uncle is a lefty.)

I also do something like this with calendars. Months and weeks don’t have personalities, but the annual calendar has always followed a very distinct shape in my mind. It’s a wavy kind of oval–almost like the path on the Candy Land game board–made up of large blocks (months) divided into rows (weeks). At any given time of the year, I can immediately call to mind where we are on my visual calendar. This helps me estimate times and remember dates.

Clearly I’m a very visual thinker, eh?

So what does this have to do with math? I have no idea. This quirk doesn’t help me memorize strings of numbers — from telephone numbers to bank PINs — easily at all. And I’m guessing that it hasn’t been particularly helpful in learning some math facts, like multiplication tables. (Is that why I can’t remember that 6 • 7 = 42? Both 6 and 7 are male, but 4 and 2 are female. I don’t know why that doesn’t compute, but there you have it.)

But it has been a boon to my daydreaming. When I’m writing algebraic equations for a curriculum development assignment, the results might end up as little stories, simply based on the numbers I choose. Certainly this is where the math and writing has come together.

So how about you? In your mind, do numbers have personalities? If so, would you be willing to share about it? What do you think of how numbers look to me? Or do you see abstract ideas, like letters or dates, in some similar fashion? I’d really love to hear from you in the comment section. (Please assure me I’m not alone!)


My Most Embarrassing Professional Moments Have Involved Math

making mistakesThe first email came in at about 2:00 p.m.

600 million divided by 660,000 equals a little over 909.

The next a few moments later.

5.4 billion people is nearly the population of the whole World (estimated at 7 billion in 2012 by USCB)

“Well, shit,” I said aloud. It had happened again.

As part of my virtual book tour for Math for Writers, Linda Formichelli (the original Renegade Writer) had offered me a great chance to reach out to her readers, through her “Monday Motivation” email. I penned a piece called “4 Math Mistakes Writers Make—and How You Can Avoid Them.”

Unfortunately, there were 6 mistakes. Two of them were unintentionally made by little ol’ me. In the whirlwind of my virtual book tour, I had not edited carefully enough. I know what to do; I just didn’t take the time to do it.

Honestly, this is my worst nightmare. If anyone else in the world had made these mistakes, I’d easily reassure them: “Math isn’t life or death! We all make mistakes, and the world still spins. [Tweet this] The thing is to learn from our mistakes and move on.”

Easier said than done, apparently.

I don’t know where I got my math performance anxiety. Perhaps it stems from my strong sense of perfectionism in some areas of my life. I’ve had that trait since childhood, and I see it in my daughter. It’s why I prefer sewing to woodworking — with fabric and thread, I can pull apart mistakes and start again. Wood is not so forgiving.

Regardless, I must want to push through it. Why else would I choose two careers (teaching and writing about math) that put my math mistakes in the spotlight?

Want to share this image? Go right ahead! Just right click, save and share.

Want to share this image? Go right ahead! Just right click, save and share.

When I was a teacher, I had less of a problem with this issue. I told my students very plainly that I would make math errors. They were invited to correct me (nicely), and we would move on. (I had the same rule for spelling, which I really don’t care one whit about.) In the classroom, I saw my public mistakes as a teachable moment. Perfection is not required. Math is difficult, and we all screw up from time to time.

In regards to my most recent public math mistakes, I’m not worried that someone thinks that 600,000,000 ÷ 660,000 = 9 or that a reader went away from my article believing that there are 5.4 billion people in the U.S. I’m worried that these readers lost trust in my ability to teach them something about math. It’s what I tell other writers all the time: If you get the math wrong, your readers can lose faith in you.

But in the end I have to go back to my more gentle self. These mistakes happen — even to big wig mathematicians. (I’m not one of those, by the way.) If you made that mistake, I’d tell you not to worry about it. And in my line of work, I’d better get that message loud and clear. Because this is not the last public math mistake I’ll ever make. Not by a long shot.

When I worried out loud about this yesterday, a dear friend and colleague told me, “Whatever. People love to point out others’ mistakes.” And she is right. It’s not that anyone has been mean about it — none of Linda’s readers were at all. It’s about connecting. I don’t need to feel ashamed or worried. I’m pretty sure Einstein would laugh and tell me to forget about it, too.

Besides, I’m sure I’m not the only writer who is worried about making public math mistakes. Right?

Do you have fears about making math mistakes — in public or elsewhere? Help me feel better, by sharing your story. Please?