Chaos Attraction

Stupidity or Excuse?

2003-11-14, 7:06 p.m.

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I originally read this awhile back, and somewhat sympathized. After all, I suck at math myself, and god knows we all know I suck at driving, albeit that may just be total lack of coordination of a large heavy fast thing. But I didn't go read the symptoms of it at the time (at least I don't think I did), and I was all, "Well, dyslexia is when the letters reverse and swim around on you, and numbers don't do that to me, so obviously I don't have it, I just suck at math."

A week or so ago, Kethrai and I are chatting about something or other, I forget exactly what, but she asked if I might be dyscalculic. At the time I'm all "eh, I dunno, probably not."

Then today I'm surfing the web as usual, am reading a science site, and come across some link on the subject, and then followed a link to this.

I couldn't help but relate to this in a big way:

"There are a great number of students who have serious difficulties in learning mathematics, but find the rest of academic subjects easy. These students have high IQs, are excellent readers and creative writers, and learn quickly. They are frustrated by a paradoxical condition. Superior performance is easily demonstrated in thinking, verbal, reading and writing skills, and in every subject where these skills are the predominant modes of learning and assessment. But when it comes to any subject that requires understanding and application of the language of mathematics, they fail miserably, to everyone's surprise."

And I did this too: "I was struggling with high school algebra while enrolled in English honors courses, and the disparity was ridiculous."

So I started going through the list of symptoms.

"Normal or accelerated language acquisition: verbal, reading, writing. Poetic ability. Good visual memory for the printed word. Good in the areas of science (until a level requiring higher math skills is reached), geometry (figures with logic not formulas), and creative arts."

All of that's true.

"Difficulty with the abstract concepts of time and direction. Inability to recall schedules, and sequences of past or future events. Unable to keep track of time. May be chronically late."

And this for the most part isn't true. I am not great with directions if I can't see where I'm directing, but I have no issues with time. I've had complicated schedules for years that I remembered, and I'm constantly on time.

"Mistaken recollection of names. Poor name/face retrieval. Substitute names beginning with same letter."

Don't know. Sometimes, sometimes not.

"Inconsistent results in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Poor mental math ability. Poor with money and credit. Cannot do financial planning or budgeting. Checkbooks not balanced. Short term, not long term financial thinking. Fails to see big financial picture. May have fear of money and cash transactions. May be unable to mentally figure change due back, the amounts to pay for tips, taxes, etc."

I am pretty much okay with the first for now as long as I can see the numbers, but sucked abysmally as a kid. Can't do math in my head for squat. Not great with money, afraid to use credit. Am kinda eh, not great on budgeting. Big financial picture...eh, what's that? And yeah, really can't figure out change due back and tips and whatnot. Again, that's stuff you usually have to do in your head, and if I can't see it, I can't do it.

"When writing, reading and recalling numbers, these common mistakes are made: number additions, substitutions, transpositions, omissions, and reversals."

Not really.

"Inability to grasp and remember math concepts, rules, formulas, sequence (order of operations), and basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts. Poor long term memory (retention & retrieval) of concept mastery- may be able to perform math operations one day, but draw a blank the next! May be able to do book work but fails all tests and quizzes."

I could remember math rules and facts, but did I get the math right when I used them for the most part? Not so much. And yes on the long-term memory. I had one algebra class where I completely flunked a test- I couldn't do anything but one section of it- the teacher made me study with her during lunch for a semester and I STILL flunked it again.

"May be unable to comprehend or "picture" mechanical processes. Lack "big picture/ whole picture" thinking. Poor ability to "visualize or picture" the location of the numbers on the face of a clock, the geographical locations of states, countries, oceans, streets, etc."

Uh, sometimes yes and sometimes no. Mechanical processes are a big no, but I don't have problems with clocks or areas I know visually.

"Poor memory for the "layout" of things. Gets lost or disoriented easily. May have a poor sense of direction, loose things often, and seem absent minded. (Remember the absent minded professor?)"

Layout of things depends. I'm better immediately in person than directing someone to go somewhere a mile away from me. Gets lost easily... I don't know. Sometimes? Sense of direction not great at a distance, lose shit all the time, and god yes on the absentmindedness.

"May have difficulty grasping concepts of formal music education. Difficulty sight-reading music, learning fingering to play an instrument, etc."

Actually, sight-reading and fingering wasn't bad for me. Then again, I played violin, so I really only had to worry about one hand. Piano I never got very far with because of worrying about the two.

"May have poor athletic coordination, difficulty keeping up with rapidly changing physical directions like in aerobic, dance, and exercise classes. Difficulty remembering dance step sequences, rules for playing sports."

Not a problem. I did dance for a decade straight.

"Difficulty keeping score during games, or difficulty remembering how to keep score in games, like bowling, etc. Often looses track of whose turn it is during games, like cards and board games. Limited strategic planning ability for games, like chess."

Yeah, pretty much... mainly I just don't pay attention, though. And I refuse to learn to play chess. That's just not gonna happen.

So... I don't know. Some of those I'm dead on, and the other half I've never remotely had a problem with.

This made a bit more sense: "Quantitative dyscalculia is a deficit in the skills of counting and calculating. Qualitative dyscalculia is the result of difficulties in comprehension of instructions or the failure to master the skills required for an operation." Sounds more like I'd have the former than the latter.

So I don't know. I doubt it really matters all that much now, since I'm out of school and have given up doing anything that requires more than a bare minimum of math.

But what Kethrai said about this does kind of linger: "There is an overwhelming shame attached to these things that you just plain can't do. You don't want to make a fuss, it's embarrassing that you just don't get it, and chances are you've been punished for it in many ways, little and big."

I've felt stupid since the first math class they gave me in first grade, and despite all the bullshit people give me about being smart, I don't feel that way. Mathwise I feel like I am retarded. Always have. And what kind of a loser are you if you get A's in everything else but math?

Math is important. If you can't do math, you'll never get a decent paying job- writing and art is bullshit and useless. God, that's so easy, and you can't do it? You're pathetic! Have you tried tutors? Go see your teacher after class! Spend all your free periods and lunches getting extra special help for the moronic! Watch as all that help does NO GOOD on the test! Cry your eyes out because you're forced to go through public recitation of the times tables every week and take tests on them all the time, and you can't remember any of them but 6x6=36 for the life of you no matter how many flash cards are thrown in your face. Get kicked out of the one advanced math class you ever managed to get into because you got a D on the algebra placement exam. Take the 2 year course of algebra 1 because you're too slow and dumb to do it like a regular kid and "smart" you gets to sit with all the brain dead moron students who spend the entire class drawing dirty pictures and sexually harassing every girl in the room. Watch your friends go on about how calculus is so hard and want to hide under the table. Cry about your SAT score. Look for a college that doesn't have a math requirement. Find classes that fulfill math and science GE's that have very little math in them. Forego taking the GRE's because after all these years, you still couldn't take a math exam no matter how basic it is and how supposedly "they don't look at your math scores for English."

Yeah, it'd be nice to have an actual excuse for all of this, other than "God, you're just a fucking idiot."


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