I Can’t Do Math

I mentioned once in a previous post that in college I was diagnosed with dyscalculia. It didn’t start as a fear of math. It’s not because I didn’t have the right teacher or didn’t try hard enough. I don’t have test anxiety. It’s because I just can’t do math.

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I have difficulty telling time on a standard clock.

I can’t estimate distances such as, “That cute puppy is so many feet away.”

I never memorized all of my multiplication facts.

I have difficulty reading maps and bus schedules.

I joke that my “inner compass” is off because I also get disoriented easily.

I’m not able to grasp and retain math equations, formulas, steps, concepts–if you teach me I will forget it all by the next day.

Even if I practice over and over again–the concept will leave my mind in a short amount of time.

I still use my fingers to solve simple arithmetic problems.

I have a hard time keeping score during games or playing any number-oriented game.

I really, honestly can’t do math.

The moment I knew something was wrong: In college, I took an online algebra class after failing or dropping 3 algebra classes previously. I figured online would be easier for me because I could watch the lesson videos over and over until I mastered the concept. We had to show up in person to take the test. I sat down, ready to take this test. The first question on the page stared back at me as I tried to recall how to even start the problem. Where do I start…what was it again? BLANK. Nothing. EMPTINESS.

Okay fine, I’ll come back to that problem. What’s the next one? Oh…how do I…start…BLANK. Nothing. EMPTINESS. Tears stung my eyes and threatened to drip onto the page. I furrowed my brow, took a deep breath, willed myself, do not cry you are in college for god-sakes! The tears started raining down on my pristine blank test as I wrote a note to my professor, “I don’t even know how to start this problem.” Another W on my transcript, I had to drop the class before I failed.

I didn’t know dyscalculia was a thing. I didn’t know I could get help. I went to see an academic counselor. He took one quick glance at my transcript. All A’s and B’s across the board except for the glaring F’s and W’s on all my math classes. He recommended that I make an appointment with the Access office to be tested. I went through a series of tests on three different days to determine my exact learning disability. As usual, anything with reading or words my scores were high and anything with numbers or logic my scores were way low. I still have the test results saved, with all the charts and graphs telling me how I rock at reading and writing and how I can’t do math.

So I got special arrangements made to help me get through college. I needed two classes to meet my math requirement. Algebra and one other math class, I chose Math for Elementary School Teachers. For algebra I took a course that was broken out into three semesters. I was able to take my tests in the Access Office in a quiet space with extra time and was given scratch paper to do all my crazy tally marks and extra steps I needed to do to help me make sense of it all. I also had a very understanding professor and she allowed me to make up my failed final. Yes, even with all the arrangements made I still managed to fail. She let me make it up though and I passed the final with a C the second time around. Then I never took a single math class again and never will again for the rest of my life.

Today I use basic math on a daily basis. I also have a handy app to figure out how much to tip at a restaurant and I keep my calculator on the front screen of my phone for easy access. I use math at work to run analytics reports. It hurts my brain every month to pull and analyze these numbers but I get through and it gets easier every time. I also understand the importance of knowing what these numbers are and how they can help me be a better writer.

I am at a place in life where I know enough about numbers to get by and live in society. I have an awesome husband who is the exact opposite of me–he’s phenomenal with numbers and is taking math classes now that don’t even fit in my realm of thinking. Dyscalculia is something I live with and continue to find ways to cope. This post is running long now so I’ll stop it here. There is more I can say on this topic!

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4 thoughts on “I Can’t Do Math”

  1. Maybe I have this too. It’s like, laughably bad how bad I am at numbers. Actually, when I took the SATs I was called in to the counseler’s office after because I scored so high on verbal, and so poorly on math, that they thought I cheated. Also? I get super confused by dates… happened today at work where I was scheduling things a week ahead. Argh!

  2. Oh em gee!! I have never been able to do math but I didn’t know there was an actual diagnoses for it! Whenever some starts talking math to me my mind wanders and I start making a grocery list in my head or think about what I might make for dinner!

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