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Dyscalculia... (and math anxiety)

12 Feb 2017, 9:38 pm
I have never been good at math. Ever. Except for really basic addition and subtraction (I'm talking single digit or things like 17 - 7). For a while I thought I was just a little bad at it. But then, I started seeing scores from different skill measuring tests and... yikes. For most of my life, getting a C or D in a math class was considered a success, but I never truly considered actually having a math disorder until recently. My psychologist even told me I have a math disability, but I sort of just ignored her and kept trying to do math. Over time, after getting 50's and 60's (sometimes lower) on algebra tests, it destroyed my confidence in math. Now I dread going to math class, because I know it'll just be another day of failure and dissapointed. My mom is a geometry teacher and my dad is an engineer. How could I of all people have such horrible math skills?

Recently my dad and i had a one-sided yelling match about a D in math (aka he walked in my room and started shouting). "So? It's normal," said I. He told me that i could do better and I was just being lazy which I know I'm not. Earlier this year, I had a high grade in math because we were going over super easy stuff from last year. It really seems to be hit or miss with me when it comes to understanding the rules of equations. He also told me to stop complaining and to just ask for help. 'Ask for help' seems to be everyone's favorite phrase, like it's some kind of magic chant that will suddenly allow me to comprehend numbers and equations. But, it really isn't easy for me to ask for help. Because of what my dad and other people have told me my whole life, my math confidence is absolutely crushed and I struggle to even answer things in class that I know because I think that I'll just get it wrong and peole will laugh at me. It's no help when all of my friend are extremely good at math either.

So, I decided i shouldn't try to downplay my problem anymore. I figured there has to be someone on here that has had these same sort of issues. And if you have, how did you cope with them? How did you approach math, knowing you wouldn't do well? I'm still quite upset over the event with my dad, but I wanted to reach out a little. Also, how did you reach out for help from teachers/family? Thanks to anyone that offers some advice.
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12 Feb 2017, 9:41 pm
I go to a school for people with learning disabilities/too much brain to benefit from public school and I have this one classmate who can do the work; it just takes longer. Time might help. There are also supposed to be tips and tricks for dealing with dyscalculia.
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12 Feb 2017, 9:43 pm
i have diagnosed dyscalculia ! i'm two grades behind in math, mentally. but! i'm going to go to school to be an astrophysicist! so don't let that stop you!

for me it helps to put the problems into context ! if its just regular old 2 x 2 = 4 or whatever i have a hard time processing it, but if i put it into a word problem, or in context with something else that i DO understand. it helps to visualize it!
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icon by jiefinch

12 Feb 2017, 9:49 pm (Edited 12 Feb 2017, 10:05 pm)
LordMoonBiscuit I have a very, very similar problem. I'm in college now, but it was a serious issue in high school and before.

How I dealt with it... is not exactly fun, exciting, or advice that fits everyone. Practice. Practice, practice, practice, and keep practicing. Watch videos, do online math problems, set aside a portion of your free time in a regular pattern that is reserved for math. Khan Academy is good for this- they have a lot of really high quality stuff, and a website won't judge you for constantly needing to go back to the basics. It's easier than asking people questions that may be basic or "embarrassing" (in quotes because it shouldn't have to be embarrassing to ask for knowledge), and you can keep track of your progress and get little rewards and prizes and nice messages telling you that you did a good job.

The other answer is, if you really can't deal with math, to avoid going into a field that uses it heavily. Which is totally ok and valid! You just have to survive to the minimum level and then never look at math again.

(Also, this isn't to say that that's the only way to deal, just how I personally dealt with my issues.)

Edit- The website mentioned is https://www.khanacademy.org/ It's free, and super extremely helpful, I highly recommend it to absolutely everyone.
12 Feb 2017, 10:00 pm (Edited 12 Feb 2017, 10:03 pm)
I actually have the same issues, but I don't know about if I have Dyscalculia because at least I understand something other than simple addition and subtraction( not being mean ;w;). I was put in a honors math class, but only because it needed to fit my schedule (my schools extremely small so they can keep track of the students+ their schedules). I have an extremely hard time working in class and doing the homework that I get. I get the same grades and have a panic attack over them. My highest grade tbh would probably be a high "C" that is 1 percent away from being a "B". I do try really hard to improve, but I math is extreme hell for me.
12 Feb 2017, 11:01 pm
How do you get a diagnosis for dyscalculia? I really think I need one but am unsure on how to go about this? I'm so terrible at math to the point it gives me so much anxiety. :(
12 Feb 2017, 11:44 pm
How do you get a diagnosis for dyscalculia? I really think I need one but am unsure on how to go about this? I'm so terrible at math to the point it gives me so much anxiety. :(

Actually, it's never been directly referred to as dyscalculia, probably because when they first discovered it I was very young (maybe 7 or 8). I've been told by two psychologists and a psychiatrist. When I was young I didn't notice, but when I was young they told me and I didn't know what it meant. I still have the same diagnosis after getting physch testing lat summer.

You might have it, but I'm far from a professional. What math classes are you in? Have you had any physch testIng in the past? What was the results? Have you always struggled with math? There are a bunch of factors. And I totally get the math anxiety. But, you may have math anxiety and not dyscalculia. I'd do some research on it and ask a psychologist (if you have one)
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13 Feb 2017, 7:49 am
I have never heard of that. Have you tried just using a calculator? I know a lot of schools are allowing that now, since you're gonna be using calculators all through life anyways (never believe if a teacher tells you someday there won't be a calculator available XD)
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15 Feb 2017, 11:03 am
Oh man, I feel this. I had a hard time with math growing up, the numbers and formulas simply didn't make sense to me. School math was a complete drag. I don't even remember what grades I got, but I had no idea what I was doing.

What usually helped me was writing down how to do stuff in a notebook. I would break down the steps of how something worked, and what things meant, then reference it when I forgot. Like fractions for example, I had a note that the bottoms should come out to the same, add the top numbers, then try to condense them into smaller numbers. I had to do this for everything. I'd have to ask for help from other students or the teacher to explain in baby steps what to do, then once I had a note that I understood, it was easy to reference back to it when I got stuck.

Just remember that when you get older and into the work force, unless you're going to have a math intensive job, you should be able to just have a calculator on hand and do everything that way. I have a job that requires almost no math aside from basic addition and subtraction, and I've been able to survive pretty easily. I have cognitive issues, so things can get rough, but work life is a lot easier than school life in my opinion.

Calculators are very helpful and can be a complete god send. The problem with this kind of issue is that it's not always the numbers that mix you up, it's also the formulas and terms. You've been told what a Convex is, you had the lesson, but for some reason when you look at the word it doesn't make sense. It's like your memory won't hold how to do this kind of stuff. You forget everything you've learned about math and can't grasp the concepts. You look at something and it's new every time. It's simply a jumble on a page. It's a silly little thing the brain does, haha.
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15 Feb 2017, 11:40 am
Pippi yay for late responses. Calculators are the only way I can even scrap by in math. But, the problem is much deeper as Malibu said. It's more of a pure dysfunction, it's almost like being dsylexic but with numbers and equations.

Malibu thanks for posting. I do keep a notebook actually (it's required for my class grade). My math teacher taught me how to take good notes, and I use multiple colors in them and don't try to cram info on the page. If I'm stuck, it might take me a long time, but eventually if I stare at my notes long enough it will click just enough to continue the problem. And fractions were the bane of my existence for a while lol. I only started to remember the basic rules of them this year.
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15 Feb 2017, 1:56 pm
( I apologize for the very long post )
both my mom and my dad are researchers , my dad in chemistry and my mom in biology . they are both good at maths . and guess what ? I suck at maths....I always hated maths for a lot of reasons, one of them is that I was bullied by many people including maths teachers ( I had a chronic illness that used to show on my body . one of my maths teachers even used to insult and make fun of me in front of the rest of the class ) . even though there are many solutions to a problem, they only accepted one of them, and considered the others to be false even though they were in fact valid, because it was 'not in the program' or 'not in the chapter we're currently studying' .

even though I got the right answer during exams, I would never get the same score as my classmates who answered the same thing . sometimes the teachers would count my answers as false even though they were right , while my friends who answered the VERY SAME THING would have their answers counted as right .
with one of them I used to always get the SAME score no matter how hard I studied for the exam, so eventually I stopped studying since it didn't matter . I still got the same ( bad ) score .

the consequences : all of this left me with severe maths disability, anxiety and 0 self-confidence when it came to maths .

how I coped with it : I was good at physics/chemistry and very good at biology , and since I wanted to become a vet I tried to be excellent at everything but maths, and succeeded , so I was able to enter preparatory classes after high school ( 1-4 years of intense studying at the end of which you take entrance exams for the universities you'd like to enter . I don't think it exists in the US though, but I think the idea I'm trying to convey stays the same as long as there is an entrance exam ) . there was a lot of maths and I knew that I wouldn't be able to realize my dream if I didn't try to at least get an average score in maths in regular exams and the entrance exams .

How I approached maths, knowing I wouldn't do well : I asked my dad for help and took maths classes at a cram school . I spent a lot of time trying to understand and practicing maths .
I still got bad scores at maths exams , but at least didn't fail miserably to the point of failing the entrance exams, and was able to realize my dream and enter a vet school . now I'm the best student of my class because we have little to no maths . I still count on my fingers sometimes, and almost always use a calculator to calculate drug doses, but there's no shame in that as long as it allows you to be right and do your job properly . what matters is the result , not the methods you use to get the right answer .

How I reached out for help from my family : my family knew I was terrible at maths, and they pitied me . so when I asked my dad for help because he loves maths ( my mom hates it despite being good) he gladly accepted to help me by explaining maths to me . parents usually love their children and will do anything to help them , simply asking them to help you is usually sufficient to get the help you need .

TL;DR of my story : I hated maths and was bad at it, and I didn't try to be good at it during middle and high school because no matter how hard I tried it didn't change anything . I tried to be good afterwards so that I could enter a vet school, and asked my dad for help and took maths classes at a cram school .
I was still bad but managed to realize my dream . it is perfectly possible to realize your dream and do what you want even when you're bad at maths, and being bad at maths doesn't make you stupid and less good than others , and won't prevent you from doing well in life .
many people will try to make you think that since you're bad at maths you're stupid, and it's totally wrong . never take it seriously . intelligence doesn't mean being good at maths . if we take cognitive intelligence as an example, people with dyscalculia often have high IQs . I was bad at maths almost my whole life yet my IQ is over 130 . and if you feel that maths anxiety is ruining your health and you don't want to study things that involve maths after high school, I'd say that enjoying your youth is more important . stop trying to be good at maths and try to be excellent at things you like instead . I used to be really anxious because of my math problems and suffered a lot because of it, only to discover when I grew up that it wasn't as important as people made it seem to be . however, if you want to study things that involve maths or simply want to be good at it, I think it is perfectly possible, but you have to go at your own pace and definitely seek help from your parents .

also, I could be wrong, but I personally think that your learning environment wasn't good and didn't allow you to develop your maths skills, which is why you're bad at maths....teachers use the same method for all the students but a single method can't be appropriate for everyone , and the people around you didn't work towards building your self-confidence but rather crushed it . being afraid of making mistakes is a huge problem when you have to learn something, because one has to make mistakes in order to learn . so asking your psychologist or your parents to help you rebuild some self-confidence in maths could help a lot ! you can also ask some friends to help you and try to study with them .

16 Feb 2017, 6:15 pm
Kuroi thank you so much! It's really cool that you're a vet. I'd become a very too, but I'm pretty squeamish with medical stuff on top of being bad at math lol. But your story gave me some hopeople for the future <3
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16 Feb 2017, 6:19 pm
Aye, stigmas. The devil I think. I ace in math and science but.. I cannot spell. I cannot spell pickle without autocorrect and I thought panel was spelled with 2 n's.
Beauty of diversity, we are all good at somethings and bad at others. The most important thing about learning math is understanding how u got your answer. Don't let it discourage you. It's like another language!
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16 Feb 2017, 11:12 pm
Honestly, I'd advise you to get a (real life) math tutor. It doesn't even have to be a professional, just an older student is more than enough! They'll know what weak points you have and can precisely help you improve.
Also, alwasy do and chack your homework. This way, you'll always have something to say when you compare homework in class (if you Americans even do that?I'm not sure tbh?)
16 Feb 2017, 11:17 pm
Sadly, I can not help. I'm bad with math, but that's mostly because of getting distracted, and by the time I've looked up from my doodles, we're on an entirely new chapter and I'm lost. All I can say is:

Endure through it. Even if you only get a D, you still pass. Never take a D for granted. That's how I managed to get through my math classes.
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16 Feb 2017, 11:24 pm
i don't have this problem but i'm here to offer assistance! i'm in the highest level math that i can be in right now, so i offer my services of neglecting my homework to help others to you. :)

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16 Feb 2017, 11:54 pm (Edited 16 Feb 2017, 11:55 pm)
LordMoonBiscuit During school and even college I suffered from a Learning Disability. Granted I graduated from high school in 2003 so things like Dyscalculia were not at all known about. What you are describing is very very similar to what I had dealt with. I'm great when it comes to Geometry for the most part but when I get into Algebra/Calculus I was at a complete loss. In highschool I got ONE A in math that was Geometry because the teacher took the time to help me and answer my many many questions. Sometimes the same one over and over. I failed my next Geometry class because the teacher refused to help me and treated us like we were college students. I went through highschool with C's in math and that was with some very hard work. Now not to let this be a bummer.

I did go to college. Granted I wanted to originally be a vet but thanks to the math required in Chemistry I knew I would never make it. So I found another critter/outdoorsie type degree to do. Finally after four years of looking I decided to go to school for Wildlife Management essentially a specialized Ag degree. I loved what I went to school for but that math always loomed over me. But with the help of friends and tutors I persevered. I set a goal when I was in college to try to pass my math classes with no less then a C. I took every single math class twice to complete it. My very last class Calc 2 (fairly useless for what i went to school for but it was required) I took THREE times. It to this day remains the only math class I didn't pass with a C but I did officially pass. I also had to take two vastly different types of Statistics which is just massive amounts of number crunching. A basics stats class (I passed with a C I think) and a Population Dynamics (I think I passed it with a high C low B). In the end I walked across the stage and received my BS in Agriculture. I am the first person in my father's family to receive a BS in anything.

So a word from someone who's slogged and waded through the same mire you are during a time when there was very very little help for LD people. It is possible. Just set goals for yourself and keep working towards it. Don't ever give up and if you need to don't ever be afraid to ask questions EVER.....even if a TA tells you to your face in front of the class that you are stupid (yes that happened to me in college I reported him and dropped that class because I was not putting up with that). Work hard get stubborn and you will succeed.

And just as a bonus the college I went to was one of the top engineering colleges in the USA, Purdue University. So as a result our math classes were competitive as could be. They graded on a bell curve yet I still managed to at least make a C in every class with my math skills against me. I just stayed stubborn and I managed to do it.

If you ever want help. I can do my best to help though I am very very rusty in my math.
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16 Feb 2017, 11:58 pm
Ah, it's good to see someone else with this disorder. I was born with it as well and diagnosed at an early age. It's very hard to deal with, and no you can't magically just start to understand math. It is EXTREMELY hard for those of us with discalculia. Does your school have a math tutor? Maybe see if they van help, or ask for extra aid in class, i.e. a calculator. Perhaps see if your psychologist can make it happen. I know that due to my disabilities, I was able to have one in many math classes.
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17 Feb 2017, 12:05 am

I noticed something I forgot to mention in my post. My parents. Neither of them were good at anything beyond basic math. They did the best they could to help me but the type of math that I was taught in high school was very different from what they were taught. So I couldn't really ask them for help. Instead I had to ask teachers. You'll have to be brave and step forward to talk to that teacher. If your nervous about talking to them during class in front of your peers then ask them afterwords to see if they can explain things a bit better. As noted before finding a tutor might help you a lot. They will be able to re-explain things to you another time and help walk you through the math at a slower pace then what you would during a normal class.
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17 Feb 2017, 1:31 am

You are not alone. I also have discalculia. I used to have a lot off math anxiety until I read a really long rant by a mathematician. Apparently, the thing that we have problems with (math, as it is taught in institutions of learning), isn't mathematics at all, but is rather more similar to the stilted paint-by-numbers of the art world. Mathematics is a beautiful art, and once you are able to let go of what you have been taught to fear, you can learn to relax into the wondrous art of creating a thing, and then figuring out the answers to the questions that you have about that thing.

Yeah yeah, ask for help. the only thing that's going to do is get you to feel more like a failure, until and unless you can find a tutor who also has DC, and who will be willing and able to help you come at the math from a different angle.

Like someone else said earlier, if you out the math into a framework that is easier for your brain to work with, the math will come a lot easier too.

I wish you the best. But know please, that you are not alone in this. I was in school before this was a known thing to exist, so it was just loads of being called lazy, stupid, or crazy. :/ I hope you find a way to think around the numbers that works for you! <3
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