It’s interesting – even though I went through an intensive teacher training program, spent a year in the classroom and hold a teaching license, I was still not aware of many forms of neurodiversity.
Dyslexia is one of the ones that is most commonly talked about, and I knew that any student in my classroom would probably need spoken word accommodations.
But even as a math teacher, I didn’t know a bit about the other types of neurodiversity around numbers. I’m talking specifically of dyscalculia. This can range from being unable to grasp basic math concepts to being unable to understand space to switching numbers around.
But here’s the thing: in high school math, it is assumed that a learning disability is already diagnosed if it is there. That’s not necessarily the case.
And I know this because I have come to realize that I am dyscalculic.
I had trouble with math facts. My mother will tell you proudly of the hours she worked with flashcards with me. I can recite math facts, but I can’t estimate a group of manipulatives.
Geometry made no sense to me. In fact, my high school geometry teacher told me outright that I probably shouldn’t bother with any more math. It still makes no sense, and was the hardest part of my Praxis exam.
I have no spatial sense. I can’t pack a suitcase or size a leftover container.
And here is the big one…the one I have been compensating for all my life: I transpose numbers. It’s not that I am being careless. I literally see them in a different order when I look at them. When I blink, they are in a different spot.
If I have to write down the numbers from a written sheet, chances are I will transpose something. It doesn’t happen if someone reads digits to me (but does if they say “three thousand five hundred eighty two” instead of “three five eight two”)
I even told my students to watch for it as I wrote things on the board.
I am good at math, in spite of all these things. I love the logic, the steps, the intricacies. But I still struggle with it at a fundamental level.
Yes, I learned how to compensate. When I copy something down, I do the copy, look away, then check again. If I am writing on paper, I will line my numbers up underneath the ones I am copying from. I always do every math problem twice to make sure I get the same answer. I use formulas in spreadsheets to avoid having to retype numbers.
It’s been interesting learning this about myself. I don’t think it will affect my future, but I will still have to compensate. I still will pile all my clothes into a pile before selecting an appropriate size bag to pack them in. I will still have other people put away leftovers or at the least validate that I have picked the correct-sized table. And I will still use my programming knowledge to avoid the simplest of issues.
And it explains so much about certain struggles in my life.
Photo by Yuchao.L