Dyscalculia and me.
Another slightly different post from me, this time about numbers.
Most people know about dyslexia- Wikipedia's description is 'Dyslexia is characterized by difficulty in learning to read fluently and with accurate comprehension despite normal intelligence' which I like, I think it's apt. Suffers are completely normal, they just struggle with words. I don't have dyslexia though, if anything I have a slightly bizarre infinity with words and have been known to finish 300 page novels in a couple of hours.
Anyway, I digress.
We all know about dyslexia but not many people know about dyscalculia. Probably about 70% of you are now thinking 'what?' and that's the reaction I get every time I tell people i'm a sufferer. Dyscalculia is (according to another Wikipedia description): 'Dyscalculia is difficulty in learning or comprehending arithmetic, such as difficulty in understanding numbers, learning how to manipulate numbers, and learning math facts'
I struggle to add up correctly, I can't count properly, tell time, understand directions and to expect me to do things like divide and multiply is basically impossible. On some occasions in maths lessons at school I would be reduced to tears because I just didn't get it. It's difficult to explain but to me, numbers don't make sense. I can't immediately identify a '3' by it's shape and when I see it written down as 'three' I can't link it to a '3'. (you have no idea how long it took me to understand that to write it down)
However, contary to dyslexics, I wasn't given more time in maths exams, I wasn't even given any help because my teachers all thought I was just one of those people that couldn't do maths. It's not uncommon to be slightly bad at maths but it is uncommon to be unable to tell the time at 19 years old, like me. So why isn't there more recognition?
I work in a retail environment and when it comes to working out change, discounts and even inputting addresses I find it difficult. I think there should be more awareness because I can't even remember how many times, when I have pulled out a calculator to work out how much 10% off something is going to be, customers and other staff memebers alike have looked at me as though i'm stupid, joked about it and I even had one customer ask me if I was 'stupid' which is beyond horrible. When I replied 'no i'm not, i'm actually dyscalculatic' he looked at me as though I'd just made it up.
Why is this ok? Why isn't more being done so that people like me, who aren't 'stupid' or 'just bad at maths' are recognized as having a problem and helped? I don't want a song and dance and a badge telling everyone i've got a problem, I just want more awareness so that people get it more- like they get dyslexia. I don't think it would be acceptable if the man that called me stupid had done the same to a dyslexic and I think there should be more equality.
However, don't get me wrong. Dyscalculia isn't just 'not getting maths'. It's not getting the most basic elements of maths. I can count to 10 confidently but once I get past 10 I get confused, I can't understand the concept of 'to' in time (for example, when someone says it's 'twenty to ten' I don't know what that means) and this little test with the little squares (above) left me tearful because I don't get it. Much like dyslexics, including someone i'm close to but who I won't name, I can't stand people that are just a bit rusty on their maths, are a bit slow, calling them selves dyscalculiatic like how all slow readers aren't dyslexic.
My dyslexic companion and I were discussing our respective disorders the other day and , like a lot of people, at first he didn't think it was real. I told him, in response 'I feel about numbers how you feel about words. When I look at numbers I feel panicky, I feel upset and I don't get them. They might as well be hieroglyphics running around the page and when people try to explain them to me, they might as well be speaking a different language. My brain just doesn't get numbers and it's as simple as that' and then he got it.
If you know anyone that might be suffering from dyscalculia, or if you do, just try and be supportive. Encourage them to get digital clocks to improve their understanding of number shapes and just be understanding when it takes us a while to count out money or tell you the time. Above all, if you are a sufferer, remember you're not alone.