The struggle to speak the language of math

Photo by George Becker on

  One of the biggest struggles of Dyscalculia is that I don’t understand the language of math. Despite repeated interventions I still struggle to speak the language of math. I am able to pick up on basic concepts, but lack the math fluency skills needed to master math. When others talk about math it sounds like a foreign language to me.

My struggles with understanding math began early on. I struggled on how numbers worked. I struggled to read the face of an analog clock and a ruler. The lines on both of those objects are simply lines to me. I can remember doing endless stacks of math flash cards, and only being able to memorize a few basic facts. If you would ask me a random math fact, there is a good chance I may not know it. 

The struggle with understanding math goes beyond being bad at math. I struggle when people use math terminology. The terms half past or a quarter of a cup have little meaning to me. I do know basic terms such as add, divide, multiply and subtract. Beyond the basic terms, I understand little.

Having Dyscalculia also affects me in other ways too. I am unable to tell my left from my right. Right and left confusion is common for people with math disabilities. I am also hopeless in giving directions and following directions. The terms north, south, east, and west also confuse me. My struggle with directions causes me to get lost frequently. I often get confused when others give me directions and get lost in the steps. I have found that it’s better to go a place a few minutes early and explore on my own. I look for landmarks and other visual cues to help me find where I am going.  Landmarks can change, but usually by them time I know where I am going it doesn’t matter if the surrounding change.

In the community I also struggle with the language of math. I am unable to total items at the store. Using a card is an abstract concept, where I can’t tell how much money I am using and how much I have left. Using cash helps me to visualize the amount of money I have and how much I can spend.

Many people who speak the language of math don’t understand why I can’t speak it. People will say but it’s so easy or the answer is right in front of you. People may say math facts don’t change. I know that the concept of math stays the same, but so does my difficulty with math. I have experienced the unforgiving nature of numbers and from those who couldn’t understand why I can’t get it.  People will tell me to learn to speak the language and won’t want to associate with me. due to the language barrier. They view me as dumb or slow because I don’t speak the language of math. What they don’t understand is that I can speak other languages and have other strengths.

Other people may think that my limited math language, means that I am capable of doing math. I can speak a few phrases, but lack the fluency to go beyond simple math conversations. Even the simple math can be difficult and takes more effort to reach an answer.  People have also thought because I have accomplished so much that I must have mastered the language of math. Accommodations, advocacy and finding the program, with the least amount of math have caused me to be successful. I didn’t begin speaking the language of math when I graduated from college.

Having a math Learning Disability will always make the language of math difficult. I haven’t found an effective program to teach me math. I may not understand the language of math but I do understand the relationship of math. I am great at finding bargains and getting the best deal on an item. I may not master math, but I can use strategies to help me. I simply have to find new ways to compensate for my math language difficulties.

7 thoughts on “The struggle to speak the language of math

  1. I found this ever so interesting, Michelle! You may lack some Math skills, but you more than make up for it in your English and Journalism. You go girl, you are awesome. God Bless! So happy we’re FB friends.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Michelle, this is a wonderful article! In my education courses, there was an emphasis on reading disabilities, but not math disabilities. I would have loved to listen to you at the university. Are you ever a guest speaker in teacher education classes?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I agree there is more awareness of reading disabilities, but not math. I have not spoke at teacher education classes, but I have spoke at a few events. I hope to speak at more places soon.


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