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Do you have Dyscalculia? (aka Math Dyslexia)

Updated on May 10, 2016
Are you concerned?
Are you concerned?

**This article is not suitable for self diagnosis. I have been diagnosed with this condition by a physician. This article's purpose is to share information about my experience with Dyscalculia.**

Have you heard of Dyscalculia before?

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What is Dyscalculia?

Many people may be familiar with terms like "Math disabled," "Mathematics learning disability" or "Math Dyslexic. These are all terms that fall under Dyscalculia, which affects between 3% to 6% of the population.

Symptoms include but are not limited to problems with:

  • Spatial Reasoning and subitizing
  • Basic math skills and concepts
  • Understanding when to apply arithmetic
  • Reading analog clocks
  • Comprehending patterns
  • Differentiating left from right
  • Directions and maps
  • Estimating time and units of measure

.Often times Dyscalculia goes unrecognized, and children that do suffer from it may have to have tutoring or additional help with various subjects. Having the condition does not mean that you can't succeed academically or in mathematics studies. Understanding the condition and what it entails is crucial for those affected in their continued education to adapt and conquer arithmetic.

Remember these?
Remember these? | Source

Before Diagnosis

If I could go back in time with the knowledge of my condition to tell my younger self, I would in the blink of an eye. Not only would I have been able to achieve more academically throughout my time in school, but I would have know that I wasn't stupid, and my teacher would have known that I wasn't lazy, that I was trying, and that I was eager to learn.

Rewind to third grade. This was the grade for me in primary school where my lack in understanding of arithmetic become apparent to me, my parents, and my teacher. After struggling for a better part of the year without receiving a parent teacher conference, special treatment, additional help, a letter home, nothing; I was given a disk to take home to play on the computer, this was a learning program. I turned on my mother's Windows '95 computer, hearing the pleasing chimes and dings as it whirred to life, inserted the disk and went to town. And it was actually fun! I played it every day for hours upon hours, my mom having to make me go to bed. I finished a four week program in one week. The problem? I was great at playing games, Super Mario World and Yoshi's Island champ here; and I wasn't struggling with adding 1+2, 9x2, or counting how many coins were in the register. I was struggling with concepts of math, how they worked, why they worked, and when to apply them.

So I failed third grade. Lucky me, on the day before the last day of school I was given I bright green flyer detailing summer school information to take home to my mother, and summer school I did go, and at summer school I leaned nothing. All I did was wear shorts to school, eat crackers, and do basic math, which was not my problem. I didn't have to repeat third grade.

I continued to struggle with math in primary school into fifth grade. During fifth grade we had to take weekly multiplications tests every Friday. Once you passed a test, you got to put a star sticker on a bigger star with you name on it. Once you'd completed all necessary times tables tests, you moved on to division. The ENTIRE school year, I didn't pass a SINGLE multiplication test. Not one, and the teacher never asked me about it, never spoke to me about it, never seemed to have any suspicion that something was wrong; she just marked her red pen through the ones that were incorrect using her key and congratulated the students who were succeeding. I passed the fifth grade and went on to Hades, otherwise known as middle school.

I could write an entire book about all my mathematics failures between sixth grade, senior year of high school, and flunking out of college algebra. Rather than do that, I'll provide some specific examples. Once while taking notes on an algebra lecture in the seventh grade, my teacher walked by, inspected my notes, took the paper from me, inspected it more, put it back down and said allowed, "I don't understand how anyone could do math this way and understand it. You need to rewrite these notes." I felt stupid because she announced it to the entire class. That same feeling of stupidity that I had felt since the third grade. I rewrote my notes the best I could. Eight grade Algebra, my teacher called me to his desk one day in the middle of class, told me to sit down at his desk. He asked me if I was even trying, to which I told him of course I was and explained to him how I've always struggled. He seemed like he cared, but at the same time he told me to just do the best I could, and sent me back to my desk.

High school, its senior year, and we have to take the ACT in order to get a good score to place us into great colleges (and to also make the school, county, district, and state look good). I was an extremely intelligent student in high school, exceeding in every subject except math. I was average in math, but I truly excelled in reading, writing, and art. My over all ACT score was great, but my math score was so low if I didn't take the ACT again and get the score up I'd have to take remedial math courses in college (which weren't covered by my scholarship-which I should have taken anyways) before I could take a regular class. So in order to get this score up, I took "Bridge Math" which was a class specially made for students like me to retouch up on all our Algebra skills. This class helped exponentially, and my teacher was amazing! She was so patient and took her time to make sure everyone understood, otherwise she would work with you one on one whenever you needed her to. I paid $50, took my ACT again, got my math score up five points (which meant I could take regular classes in college for math) and graduated high school with a 4.0 and got into all the colleges I applied for, and actually went to the one closes to my house.

Here we are, finally in college, my first class on my second day (I missed all my classes on my first day, see: ) and its College Algebra. I sit down, and the teacher is talking about different aspects of math and she says, "For those of you that are in this class because you have to have it, I am not here for you, and you may fail. I am a complex engineering instructor, and I teach as thus. If your educational path doesn't include a major such as radiology, nursing, medical, engineering, my class is probably not for you." That was my first red flag, but I blew it off, I thought I could do it. I did SO great in bridge math, I was confident. I was wrong terribly wrong. I waited too long to he point where I couldn't back out of the class, and I failed it with an F. I eventually just stopped going to that class all together because I was going to fail no matter what. I didn't even take the finale. I eventually dropped out of college in my second semester.

After Diagnosis

After I dropped out of college I was in a dark place. I moved to a full time position at work as a cashier so I could at least make money while being a worthless college drop out. I was on Tumblr one night scrolling through my dash when someone's reblog popped up about various mental disorders. I happily clicked the link and read in amazement at all the disorders there were, until one caught my eye. I stopped in my tracks, my mouth agape, breath caught in my lungs, eyes glued to the light projecting into my retinas that were words and they read "Dyscalculia: Math Dyslexia" and listed symptoms of the disorder. I stared at the computer in disbelief, a few silent tears ran down my cheeks. All of the failure, the despair, the feelings of worthlessness, stupidity, being called average, "just another C student" it was staring me back in the face. My heart started pounding, my chest filled with the warm feeling of hope, my eyes lit up with delight, I printed as much information off about the disorder as I could, stapled it together and ran up the stairs to my moms room shouting, "Mom! Mom! I'm not stupid! I'm bad at math, but I'm not stupid!" to which her words were, "What are you going on about, of course you're not dumb."

Months later I talked to my doctor, I gave her my printouts and told her everything from the beginning, she told me without even giving me the proper evaluation that I without a doubt had Dyscalculia, especially given my minor case of Dyslexia (which didn't stop be from getting the highest score on our State mandated writing test in my entire student body-I'm gonna brag on myself here for a moment.) She apologized that I'd dealt with all I had, and hoped me the best in my future of academics.

I went on to become a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) and now do exceptionally well at math. I still cant read an analog clock all that well, if you ask me to hand you that pen on the left, I'll look to the right, and if you have 30 pills on your tray, and ask me how many do I think are on there, I won't be able to give you a guess. I'd sooner say five or 700 before 30. But given all that, I provide exceptional patient care, assist my pharmacist, and am enjoying my life with Dyscalculia.

Everyone is different. We all learn in different ways and at different speeds. If you or someone you know may be suffering from Dyscalculia or have some of the symptoms, don't be afraid to talk with your doctor. With the correct diagnosis you can have a bright academic future without struggling like I did! There are always brighter days ahead, school will always be there, education is for everyone.


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    • ToxixicaFree profile imageAUTHOR

      Jessica Smith 

      2 years ago from Tennessee

      Thank you so much for your kind words and for reading! :D

    • RTalloni profile image


      2 years ago from the short journey

      Interesting to learn of this disorder. Thanks for sharing your experience. How wonderful it is that you've recognized the problem and worked to do so well in spite of it! And now, to write about it as an encouragement to others is icing on the cake. :)


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