*This is a very long blog post, so take your time and I hope you learn something new from a new perspective.*
At 17 years old, I was diagnosed as Dyscalculic. I had always struggled with numbers and never had a very good academic memory when it came to patterns. I remember sitting in class as young as 5 years old and pretending to say out loud the times tables everyone had learnt. As an adult I only know my 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 10 times tables, and for the 3s and 4s I can only do them to a certain point.
Up until Sixth Form, I had always been told that I wasn’t trying hard enough when it came to my school work. In Maths, I have vivid memories of being upset because my teacher told me to concentrate more, when I was using all I had to learn the curriculum. After Getting a low D in my GCSE’s (Twice) I left school feeling like that part of my life was finally over.
But little did I know that in my second year of college I would need to resit my Maths GCSE in order to get a decent job in later life. So I did. I was part of a class of other students who were retaking their GCSE’s, but out of all of my classmates I still struggled. I decided to talk to my teachers, and they referred me to the College mentor who deals with people with Learning difficulties. After speaking to her, I was tested, and diagnosed within an hour that I was Dyscalculic.
It’s strange to say but to find out I did actually have a Learning Disability was a relief. I finally had an answer to why I couldn’t comprehend certain things.
Within 6 months, after weekly sessions with a specialist, I resat my test and passed with flying colours and I’m the proud owner of a C in GCSE Maths. Madeleine was fantastic, she taught me ways to learn certain problems, and we created new ways for my mind to comprehend numbers. I am much more comfortable in maths now than I was before.
I’m now Twenty, and although my struggle with numbers is there, I can cope with them a lot more.
For a while I would cry when I came across certain maths problems and felt extreme stress when trying to solve them, now I can logically try to solve them with little to no problem, even if they turn out wrong.
Dyscalculia is different for everyone who has it, and for me I have immense difficulties understanding Fractions, sequences and simple things such as time and mental addition.
People get really frustrated with me when I struggle with maths problems and as lovely as my boyfriend is, he is one of them. He’s what I would call a bit of a maths genius. He can solve 5×5 rubiks cubes in a few minutes, remember amazing sequences and can pretty much do any maths problem I give him. His abilities make him want to ‘fix’ me. Or at least teach me. But no matter what he’s tried, it never works. And I feel like this irritates him as it does other people.
This is what it’s like for most people I’ve come across who have to tried to teach me ways to do sums, and honestly the only way I can do them is the way I’ve invented, as is with most Dyscalculics. For reference here is an example I made:
*this may look wrong to you, and look inefficient, however I still get the same answer even if I’m the only one to understand. I take apart all of the numbers in order to do smaller sums and then add those smaller sums together.*
If I’m given a simple sum on paper, I can solve it. But mentally it’s sometimes nearly impossible for me to do simple calculations such as 33+28. Fractions are a different matter, as my brain doesn’t seem to understand how certain numbers can be the same.
Obviously I understand the basic ones such as 1/2 = 2/4 but as soon as you ask me about non-rehearsed fractions I get anxious. I simply can’t comprehend why certain numbers are the ‘same’.
I’ve also got a difficulty in retaining information. I have to see something in front of me to memorise it, which is why I think I’m such a fast reader (I can read a 300 page book in around 1 hour and 50 minutes if I’ve read it before, or around 2 hours and 30 minutes if it’s new to me). My problem in school was learning everything in class perfectly but as soon as I left the room it just disappeared.
Time is something I have tremendous issues with, and it has affected me in my work before. I like to plan heavily because of this and it irritates people when I do it, because I can have a whole day planned out to the time otherwise I will be late or too early.
If I put something in the oven at 5.34 for example and it needs 25 minutes to cook, I have to ask my parents to tell me what time to take it out because I literally can’t do that sum in my head. It’s very frustrating.
I suppose the way I’d describe it to someone is those children’s toys where you have shapes and they match holes in a cube and to me maths is like trying to put a square into the triangle hole. It doesn’t work but in my mind it should.
I recently watched a documentary on Youtube about a Savant who is a mathematical genius. It was very interesting from my point of view as a Dyscalculic to see what it’s like for someone who really understands numbers. He explains how they just appear to him in the right way, and it’s pretty much the complete opposite for me. Numbers will muddle themselves up or sometimes they will just be blank spaces and nothing is there. I liked the documentary because it also showed that although Daniel is a genius, it’s not all fantastic for him.
You can watch the documentary here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPySn3slfXI
Dyscalculia is something we don’t really know much about, and there are many studies and organisations out there trying to find a way to understand it fully. I’ve listed a few websites below if you would like to read more about it or if you feel like you might have Dyscalculia and want to find a way to get diagnosed properly.
The British Dyslexia Association (my tutor was a part of this association)
SEN Magazine An interesting article about why it’s sometimes not the best thing to be tested for Dyscalculia due to school’s being so ignorant of it.
Contact a Family is a site where parents can find other parents who have children with disabilities to offer support and advice, dyscalculia is also one of those disabilities.
Thank you for reading this blog post, it’s something very personal to me and something not many people know about. If my friend hadn’t been diagnosed in school, I doubt I would have known what it is and sought help.
You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter for all of my latest blog posts, and I hope to hear from any one who also struggles. I’m finally in a comfortable place with numbers and might be able to offer some support.
Have a nice day!
Photo credit: Dyslexia A to Z , Pinterest