>The largest common factor is I just don't get it.

12:57 AM


math disasterImage by the mad LOLscientist via Flickr

College math. Blehhhh.

I've been having a hard time with it. Right now my grade is hanging at a 69. Ouch.

In a way though I am thankful for it. College math has forced me to re-evaluate my problems with math. I have found out exactly where I have been going wrong all these years. Well, in reality it looks like my problems are random and all over the board. However, when a certain lens is applied to the situation, things suddenly become a lot more clearer.

I seem to have dyscalculia.

The problems this learning disability presents are different for each person, but the root cause is the same. We just don't get numbers. I mean really get them.

The basic multiplication tables are considered to be 1-12 or 0-12 depending on how you look at it. I don't understand why 11 and 12 are tacked on there, so I forget they even exist. To me the tables should be 1-10. The only numbers I feel like I "understand" are 1, 2, 3, 5, and 10. I have tried for years to memorize 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 12 multiplication tables with no success. I also have problems working with these numbers. They're easier if they're combined with one of the numbers I "understand" but if they are combined with each other it often takes me a while.

I understand most mathematical and geometrical concepts easily. However, complicated algebraic expressions elude me and I easily forget the formulas. I also have problems computing numbers. I will grasp a concept but ask me to work it out on paper or in my head and I only come up with the correct answer like 65% of the time. Formulas get confused, numbers get confused, and I even have issues understanding what word problems want sometimes and not only give the wrong answer but work out the problem completely wrong.

I started reading up on dyscalculia, really reading up and not just reading the symptoms and going "Well I might be and I might not be..." I was shocked at the level I found myself relating to people on. Everything from the severe math anxiety to the explanations of numbers being more like words than real concepts clicked with me. I asked around and a lot of people said it sounded like I may have the learning disability. I started checking out resources on how to learn math with dyscalculia. The methods listed not only seemed like they would work, one of them actually demonstrated that it did work. A combination of colors and shapes with a series of numbers helped me memorize a string of numbers that I would have never been able to memorize normally (black and white, no shapes).

I've also been playing a basic math game designed for kids with dyscalculia which has been causing me to really see how my perception of numbers is faulty.

This is what I have discovered so far: When I see a number on paper, like the number 7, I don't connect it with seven separate things. I actually read it more like a word than anything else. On top of that, if I see 7 dots: ....... I don't really see seven dots, I either see a bunch of single dots or I see one single section of the page that equals 7. Notice I said equals 7 and not is 7. I also don't really connect those dots: ........ with the number on paper: 7. So... ask me what 7 x 8 is... and I have a hard time just visualizing that first set of seven objects... but ask me what 7 x 2 is and I instantly latch on to that 2 as a lifesaver, reverse it so that I'm doing 2 x 7, and spout out 14. But beware if that problem is on paper... I may mistake that 2 for a 3. If you use more than one number at a time I'm likely to mix them up, too. 838445 becomes 828454 or something crazy like that. I proofread my work and still don't realize that the numbers don't match.

It's hard for me to explain because it doesn't really seem all that weird or abnormal to me. I'm just now discovering that it is abnormal to read 7 as just 7 and not visualize seven objects. When I picture 7 in my head I picture it as just that - 7.

I don't really like the idea of having a learning "disability" though. It's not like I'm unable to learn math. Despite my problems with it in school my math teachers were convinced I was mathematically gifted and pushed for me to go in to gifted classes for it (I remember feeling upset that so many of them thought I was just being lazy and needed more challenge instead of listening to me when I told them I just couldn't understand it). I just learn math differently than most people.

So I have set out on the mission to learn my multiplication tables again utilizing the new things I know about the way I learn. So far I have color coded a multiplication table to focus on some key numbers I have problems with and made a list of some number combinations to focus on for the week (3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 - all highlighted in purple on the chart). Tomorrow I am picking up index cards so I can make colorful flash cards to practice with on this week's material. The numbers are going to be combined in every way possible. That means I'm not only going to cover 3 x 5 but also 5 x 3 and 15 = . The reason I color coded the chart the way I did was to force myself in to seeing the pattern formed by the answers (which is the way I learned the multiplication tables I know). Colors will be further utilized in the flash cards to help me memorize the numbers. The placement of colors on the table will change as my numerical focus changes. Right now the focus is on purple, yellow, blue, and white (lower right corner). Red marks off primes "unofficially" (two is not included). Green "unofficially" marks off even numbers (some of the other colors overlap the green marks).

I will let you know how it works out! :)

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