I actually can’t math.

It appears the common usage of the English language allows for nouns to be used as verbs and adjectives. I think it’s part of the whole “Reduce-Reuse-Recycle” thing, a “green” method of wording (see what I did there?), and to conserve and reuse words rather than using new ones. Or, maybe it’s that people are lazy and used to Twitter. But anyway, as wordy as I am always being accused of being when I write, I actually like it. I use it often. For example, “I can’t adult today” or “I’m not up to adulting” seems to express so much in so few words. And my son, known from now on as LARP Boy (I don’t want to use his real name and he’s very much into LARPing right now), will shorten things even more. For example, when asking him why he is doing something, he will answer, “Because reasons,” and if he can’t quite get out what he’s trying to say, he will simply say, “Words.” These responses don’t give me the information I am looking for, but they do, quite literally, express an answer or an explanation.

Quick note: LARP is Live Action Role Play. It’s a 48 hour event that mixes Dungeons and Dragons and The Walking Dead, but more on that in a future post.

So, now that I’ve set all that up, what I really want to say is, I can’t math. Not “math is hard” or “I struggle with math concepts” or “I am not good at math,” I mean I actually can’t math. See how all encompassing that phrase is? It really works!

I actually looked it up about five years ago and I think I have Dyscalculia. Here’s the definition: A difficulty in learning or comprehending arithmetic, such as difficulty in understanding numbers, learning how to manipulate numbers, and learning facts in mathematics. It is generally seen as a specific developmental disorder. Now, looking back, my life would have turned out so differently if some teacher along the way had seen this and, instead of ridiculing me in front of the class, got me some help. Hindsight and all… I’d spend hours doing work that should not have taken me so long, I’d have to redo work because I spent so much time making all the numbers into drawings it became unreadable, but using art to cope was what I have always done. When I was in early elementary school, I had to write standards for something I did wrong. I don’t remember what it was, but I had to write something like, “I will not ______________ at school anymore” 1,000 times. I wrote it out 300 times at school, and then I wrote it out 500 times at home, and when I got back to school I threw out the pages with the 300 sentences. It seemed perfectly sound judgment to me – because 300 is less than 500, why wouldn’t I keep the one with more sentences. IT NEVER OCCURRED TO ME TO COMBINE THEM. It’s not that I didn’t understand how to combine them, but that concept just didn’t occur to me, UNTIL  someone pointed it out, and it was too late so I had to write them over again.

Here is what trying to math is like for me. Imagine someone is writing a word problem on a dry erase board, but it’s a magic board that automatically erases for you when you are done. Except the board isn’t working correctly, and it’s erasing words so quickly that only two words can be seen at a time. Imagine you also have very poor working memory, so you need to have everything written down to remember it. You are watching the person writing the word problem but words keep disappearing shortly after they’re written, and, at the end, the person says, “Okay, tell me what I just wrote.” And you can’t, it’s gone. Maybe this isn’t a good metaphor. My point is my brain is teflon with numbers. I have to read the same math problem over and over and over, and it just slides off my brain. I look at it, and then I look for it in my brain, and it never stuck so it’s gone, I can’t even think about it. I’m like that with just numbers, too; those people who remember how much something costs so they know if they are paying too much? I’m not those people. In fact, the minute after I’ve looked at how much something costs, I’ve already forgotten it. I can edit a report or an essay or an IEP  – writing is not a problem – but anything with numbers is a problem.

I have avoided going out to restaurants with friends because of my intense anxiety knowing there would be a time to figure out how to split the bill or figure out the tip. Now, of course, there are apps for that (OH THANK HEAVENS FOR THOSE), but I still experience some anxiety when I go out to eat. I feel better if LARP Boy is with me, since he’s a math wiz and actually ENJOYS figuring those things out. I’m pretty sure he’s my kid.

Not being able to math dictated what college I went to, because I could not do the math required to apply to certain colleges. It affects me every time my hubby asks me how many miles are on my car, or when I look at my paycheck, or I’m deciding which coupon to use at Joann’s or Macy’s (I just pile them in front of the cashier and ask them to pick). It’s also really embarrassing, to the point of humiliating, sometimes, when my inability to math (or just remember any numbers beyond a handful of ones that remain in my head from years of drilling) becomes apparent in front of others; others, who, obviously, have no problem figuring out how much a shirt costs when it’s 35% percent off and on the half off clearance rack, or others I work with who can quickly discern how many counseling minutes a student gets each week when the minutes are given in a monthly total.

I stopped fighting it a while ago, which might look to some like “giving up,” and perhaps it is. There comes a time you have to give up trying to fit that square peg in a round hole because it’s just never gonna happen. So I use the tools I have (calculator, tip calculator, LARP Boy), and sometimes I even use my self-diagnosed Dyscalculia to explain it, but generally I feel relief at not continuing to expect I can do something that my brain can’t do.

Also, I keep reminding myself, that even though I can’t math, I can words.


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