working towards perfection (and failing)

Me and Maths


I don’t suffer from Dyscalculia. I know this not because I’ve been tested (I haven’t) but because I checked the symtpoms on the most trustworthy of sites (Wikipedia) and I suffer from very few of them.

I can tell the time with both analogue and digital, I find basic mental arithmatic to be quite easy, I only very occasionally get muddled between right and left, I can navigate using a map exceptionally well, I’m punctual, I can guesstimate distance and measurements and I remember names and phone numbers. In fact, the only three points on the list to which I can relate are:

  • Often unable to grasp and remember mathematical concepts, rules, formulae, and sequences
  • Inability to concentrate on mentally intensive tasks
  • Low latent inhibition, i.e., over-sensitivity to noise, smell, light and the inability to tune out, filtering unwanted information or impressions. Might have a well-developed sense of imagination due to this (possibly as cognitive compensation to mathematical-numeric deficits)

Maths completely and utterly scares the proverbial out of me and I genuinely don’t understand it. I can learn about mean, median and range till the cows come home, but it goes in my right ear and tends to make a quick exit out of my left. Pythagoras theorem? Well, I can spell it. Does that count? Shove an ‘x’ and a ‘y’ in my face and I’m likely to try to turn it into a word instead of try to solve a problem. Part of my issue with Maths is that I don’t need to know it. I can gage if I’ve been given the correct change in a shop with a single glance and I can find my way from A to B using a timetable. I can set my alarm to get me up at the right time and I know that it’s going to take me ten minutes to walk to the bus stop, so I leave fifteen minutes prior. In any given day it isn’t important for me to know which of mean, median or range is the equivalent of being an average (why can’t it just be called average?) because I know how averages work. My mind goes topsy-turvy when I think of having to study Maths or support someone in a Maths lesson and everything gets muddled. I imagine that it’s similar to what Dyslexics have to endure, although at least mine is more liveable with.

I think therefore that Maths was created to make some people seem more intelligent than they are. Maths is hard for me because someone made it hard for me. It doesn’t need to be hard and I shouldn’t need to prove that I can do equations and algebra and work out ridiculous angles when I’m never going to bloody use them.

*stomps feet in despair*

Yesterday we had a mini-training session (one hour) on how to best support students in using the 4 Rules of Maths. We went through ‘re-ordering’ (um, I don’t think so), ‘partitioning’ (what the f>ck?!), ‘bridging’ (okay, now I just want to run from the room) and ‘compensating’ (nope, you’re just throwing numbers in my direction and they mean nothing so I will switch off and enjoy the wandering rambles of my imagination). Having looked at addition (I can do that) and subtraction (I can do that too) we turned our attentions to multiplication. And at this point I became unstuck again. A grid method on the PowerPoint made absolutely no sense to me. My brain couldn’t work it out. I’m looking at the slide on the handout right now and my brain is threatening to implode. It actually makes me want to cry. And when we got to division? I completely switched off. I’ve NEVER EVER EVER learnt how to divide using that bus-stop thingy. And long division? No thank you. P!ss off, please.

I hate Maths with a passion and I’m not scared to admit this. What’s Maths going to do? Bop me on the head with an octagon? I am an intelligent (but not clever) woman, with a 2.1 Honours Degree, a teaching qualification, an insatiable thirst to keep learning (but not Maths or nerdy-Science based stuff, thank you) and a desire to keep my brain active. I shouldn’t be made to feel sub-intelligent just because my brain isn’t wired for some of the more ridiculous Maths problems; I will never understand some of the more complex Maths problems, or even some of the more simple ones. I’ve tried to and I will continue to try to if I need to (dependent on classes I support in) but I am not Mathematical and I never will be. It saddens me that there is so much emphasis on the fact that so many adults don’t have even the most basic mathematical skills, and yet they’re having their heads forcibly filled with mathematical concepts which they will not need (dependent on vocation chosen) and this is just odd.

Maths, I don’t like you. And I refuse to change my mind, although I quite like you when puzzling through my Soduko.


  1. Cathy

    I found out the other day that children around here are being taught a different way to do division than I was taught when I was young. A coworker discovered this when he attempted to help his son with his homework… This just boggles my mind!

    (This has nothing directly to do with your dislike of mathematics but I thought of it while I was reading your post.)

    *steers herself back on topic*
    None of us retains much of anything we were taught that we don’t use so don’t feel bad about that. If you don’t need to use math very much, then it simply doesn’t matter that you don’t get it.

    No one is good at everything.

    For example, I always did like math and I’m in accounting now so it all works out.

    If I had to remember history – dates and facts and how and when – I’d be in trouble! I never could retain that sort of information past the test I needed them for. I try to learn more now but none of that sticks in my head.

    And geography. I’m horrible at remembering where places are around the world. It’s really terrible.

    So, yeah. I don’t think it’s important for me to learn history or geography and you don’t need to learn math – alright?

  2. Katiefinger

    Being taught a different way to do either division or multiplication (or even adding and taking away) is a major issue; it isn’t just a generational thing … schools in the same town may teach different ways and that can only lead to confusion. So, in a roundabout way that comment made total sense to my dislike of the subject!

    Unfortunately it’s quite important that I ‘know’ Maths as I support students in college and may have to support in a Maths lesson (I don’t have a choice, and do currently support Maths for one hour a week, which is my idea of Hell!) I’m pretty good at being able to deflect so it’s not too much of an issue, but this post does in part stem from the feeling I have when I’m in that classroom listening to words that make no sense and watching numbers which jumble around.

    I think as long as everybody has a basic grasp of their native language, a basic understanding of Maths and quite a bit of commonsense nothing else should be forced upon people. Education completely ruins the lives of some people!


  3. Cathy

    It’s a shame you have to work with math when dealing with your students. :-( Let’s hope you won’t have an awful lot of that and more of agreeable subjects like English or such.

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