Dyscalculia: My Lifetime Struggle with Math

Hey there, folks! Today I am here to share more information about my struggles with my learning disability/brain disorder-Dyscalculia.

Some of you may have already watched my Megabyte Monday video where I discussed this and cried (I seriously hate that I cried), but if you haven't click here or scroll to the very bottom of this post!  

Clearly, this is something I have struggled with my whole life. No matter how many amazing teachers I have had or methods I have had introduced to me, my dyscalculia will never go away....I will always struggle. This is something I have had to come to terms with in my adult life and it is something that ,still to this day, many people make fun of me for....and yes...it still hurts...more than you will ever know.  However, I have also learned that by being open and advocating for myself that ,yes, dyscalculia is a thing and ,yes I have it...there are more and more people that protect me, love me and support me in spite of this struggle. 

As an educator living with this disability I have decided to research and educate myself on this topic so that I can:

 

1) Help my students and be able to recognize the early signs of Dyscalculia

2) Spread my knowledge and story to educators in hopes that they will be able to help students like me and not become a "Ms. Hawk" to their students. (see Megabyte Monday to know who Ms. Hawk is)

 

Today, my goal is to share resources with you so that you can remain aware of this learning disability and hopefully help a student from feeling the way I have for so many years. 

 

What is Dyscalculia?

By definition it is the severe difficulty in making arithmetical calculations, as result of a brain disorder. 

Now, I did not suffer brain damage in my lifetime so I am considered to have "developmental dyscalculia", but it is important to know that if one suffers a stroke or severe damage to the brain it could cause symptoms of Dyscalculia. 

 

If you google "Dyscalculia" you will see a large list of information, blog posts, "cures" etc. and by reading through these you will begin to see that there are some discrepancies between sources. That is why I look to the amazing Jo Boaler for information on Math anxiety and her brain research of what occurs when a child does math! CLICK HERE!  Another great resource is to search through Google Scholar to find the latest research and cast studies! Needless to say, there is still a lot to learn about Dyscalculia even though the term was coined in 1968 very little is known about this disorder. 

 

You are probably sitting there going, "Okay Meg, but how do I know what this looks like?"

GREAT QUESTION! The truth is that Dyscalculia looks different for everyone. There are many signs of this learning disability, but before I share those you must promise me that:

1) You will not use this information to start viewing every child that struggles with Math as someone who has this disability

2) You will understand that society has made us view Math as something that SHOULD be hard and complex while Reading is viewed in a totally different light 

and 

3) YOU WILL REMAIN PATIENT WITH ANY CHILD THAT STRUGGLES! (yes, this may seem like a 'duh' statement, but you would be amazed at the things people said to me)

So, do we have a deal?!

Great!

First things first....DYSLEXIA AND DYSCALCULIA ARE NOT THE SAME THING!!! 

Having one of these doesn't mean that you automatically have the other.  I have never struggled with reading, spelling or writing...in fact...these areas are where my strengths lie. After talking with my mom I discovered that I was considered "above average" in school, but my teachers never understood why I "didn't get" math.  Some thought I was being lazy, some thought that I had "peaked" in my intelligence (hello closed mindset) , while others just got frustrated with me, often.  My parents had me tested for dyslexia, which goes to show how little is known about this disorder,  and tested for Special Education services...you can probably guess that I didn't qualify for either. 

I remember early on thinking numbers were strange (kindergarten is when I made this discovery). They were these wiggle things on paper that actually represented things, but I didn't know what things they represented.  On of my earliest memories was trying to make sense of how this thing called a "number" could represent something off of a page. See, in reading sounds are made by letters, but letters aren't tangible...but these number things were...? Just weird. 

So, I decided to analyze these numbers on my page. I began to notice that these numbers had bumps and points that seemed to match their "value"...

1...has one point at the top, 2....has two points one at the top and one and the bottom, 3...has three points.....aha! I had figured it out...it was like a secret language! Well, not really, because my whole method was shattered when I began to reach numbers like 6 & 7....they don't have points! 

From here on, I decided I just needed to memorize....I am very good at memorizing...I am a visual learner, so this wasn't a problem for me. I could look at a number and tell you what it was, but I couldn't tell you what it meant. 

Moving on to first grade things got complicated, all of a sudden these number things were growing and shrinking.

WHAT?!! You mean these things work together?!!

I relied on manipulatives heavily and when I was made fun of for it, I resorted to using my fingers. I truly had no idea what I was doing and I quickly learned that math wasn't easy for me. Teacher's became frustrated, peers began to mock me and call me dumb, and I began to believe that I was stupid. To hear the rest of this story, you will need to go and watch my Megabyte Monday Replay (embedded at the bottom of this post) . 

This was just the beginning of years of ridicule, testing, struggle and feeling worthless.  At the age of 28, I have decided to open up and tell my story, because there is no use hiding anymore.  I cannot be the only one that has this and I don't want anyone to feel the way that I have felt for so long! 

Ways to help...

Throughout my research I have not come across an intervention for dyscalculia, but I have hope that there will someday be an intervention for this hidden disorder. 

What I do know is that one of the biggest ways you can help a child with Dyscalculia is with your patience and understanding. Make math visual, hands-on and do not ever skip through foundational skills. Do not take away concrete objects from a student that struggles and do not control the process for them, instead sit back and observe so you can see how they are making sense of mathematics. Understand that speed is not a defining factor when it comes to intelligence. The worlds leading mathematicians will spend years working on one problem, so why must we rush our students through concepts!?! Speed is one thing I will never have when it comes to math & to this day people still judge me for that. I have learned how to keep my anxiety at bay, but the judgement of colleagues will never cease, sadly.  

 

I spent many years with tutors, online programs, teachers that wanted to help and professors that wanted to protect me. Despite all of those things, I still struggle to this day, but my struggle does not mean that I am inadequate. Dyscalculia does not mean I am not intelligent, in fact I believe it means the opposite. My Dyscalculia, although a deep wound, has built and shaped me into an amazing educator that understands struggle.  This learning disability has helped me view the world differently and see that there is not just ONE WAY to learn & for that I am grateful.  Do not pity me for my struggle for I have embraced it, instead I hope that you seek information and learn from my story so that you can help a child in your classroom. 

 

 

Thank you so much for stoppin' by

See my Megabyte Monday Video about Dyscalculia below.