Monday, February 28, 2011

Dyscalculia Day March 3rd

This Thursday is Dyscalculia Day. For those of you who don't know - My name is Nell and I have a maths disability.
Dyscalculia, a disorder which primarily effects a person's ability to work with numbers and mathematical concepts, is a virtually unknown learning disabilty. It is so little known, in fact, that World Dyscalculia Day was not started by a research institution or large non-profit advocacy group -- we dysclaculics don't have any of those in or corner (yet!). World Dyslcalculia Day is a grassroots effort by members of the Dyscalculia Forum online community. World Dyscalculia Day is as effort by dyscalculics, for dyscalculics, to educate others about this learning disability. Dyscalculia is defined by a person's difficulty with numbers and arithmetical concepts. It's estimated (by people who are good at that sort of thing) that between 4% and 6% of the world's population has dyscalculia, but that only 1% has even heard of the disorder.

People with dyscalculia struggle to perform everyday tasks, such as remembering addresses and phone numbers, figuring a tip at a restaurant, or determining exactly what that "10% OFF!" sale will get them. We tend to transpose digits (reading 67 for 76), invert digits (reading 6 for 9), or just get plain confused (3 and 8 might look like the same symbol to a dyscalculic). All that, and we haven't even talked about using numbers to do actual math!

Notice how Dyscalculia Day is on March 3rd -- 3/3? That's because it allows us to safely get the day and month confused (and we will ... we will) -- but we can't screw it up.
It isn't just 'not being good at maths' it is about a real disorder that spills over into areas of everyday life. I can't text, use a cashpoint machine, remember phone numbers or my car registration number. I can't read a digital clock and have to have a calculator where the keys and the numbers on the keys are clearly marked out in different colours so they don't blend into the background. On a bad day, I'm worse when I'm tired or stressed, I can't remember my own birthday. It affects my spatial awareness, I can't tell left from right and my job share partner is perpetually baffled and amused by my complete inability to process even simple directions or to remember my way to and from somewhere.It affects co-ordination and balance - that spatial awareness thing again.
People with dyscalculia aren't stupid - I have four professional qualifications, a string of GCSE and A levels but I can't remember a pin number for a card and frequently get dates and appointment times scrambled.
Some of the explanation above came from the Dyscalculia Forum
I'm not alone, many famous people also have dyscalculia, Cher, Mary Tyler Moore, Henry Winkler,Benjamin Franklin, and Hans Christian Anderson, even Einstein struggled with basic maths.
If you, or someone you know is dyscalculic please visit the forum and raise awareness of Dyscalculia. If it's cool for the Fonz to admit it then I can too - I'm Nell and I have dyscalculia.

18 comments:

Kimberly Menozzi said...

You know, Nell, thanks to knowing you and hearing your descriptions of this disorder, I'm now sure that I have known a few people who dealt with it.

At least now I have a name for it.

Thanks for helping spread awareness of the disorder. Maybe your efforts (and those of the members of the Dyscalculia Forum) will help others to understand their own struggles a little better.

catdownunder said...

Perhaps you will eventually get your "Colin Firth" to do for dyscalculia what his performance in "The King's Speech" is doing to raise awareness of stuttering. I hope so because I know it is a real problem like a lot of other real but "hidden" problems.

Nell Dixon said...

Hi Kim, yes, you saw first hand what I'm like! lol

Nell Dixon said...

Thank you, Catdownunder, I hope it does raise awareness. It would be great to see it recognised and help offered, especially in schools, on the same level that dyslexia is recognised and supported. Even though I think there could be more help for dyslexics too.

liz fenwick said...

What a brilliant description of it Nell. I'm dyslexic with a few of those qualities...but at least everyone knows about dyslexia now.

lx

Marshall Buckley said...

I must admit I'd never heard of this though I've often wondered if there was a form of numeric-dyslexic.
Have to say, my wife exhibits many of these signs. I shall bring it to her attention.

Nell Dixon said...

Hugs Liz.

Nell Dixon said...

Hi Marshall, I went through years of thinking I must just be stupid even though I was top set in everything but in remedial math. I wasn't diagnosed until I was 23. I always knew there was something wrong.

Jennifer Leeland said...

I have this too.
Mine is more mild, but I can't count, balance my checkbook, and adding and subtracting sometimes stump me.
Great post, Nell.

Nell Dixon said...

Hi Jennifer, it affects so many people, some more severely than others. I think we get so used to arranging our lives so we can cope with the issues it throws up.

Shirley Wells said...

Goodness, I'd never heard of it. I must say I'm glad I'm not afflicted as I can't even say Dyscalculia Day - well, not quickly.

I hope you and the forum can raise awareness of this problem!

Talli Roland said...

I had no idea there was such a thing. Thank you for the awareness, Nell.

Nell Dixon said...

Hi Shirley,thank you for visiting.

Nell Dixon said...

Hi Talli,
A lot of us have coping strategies which means it stays hidden.

Deborah Melanie said...

This was really interesting, Nell. Thanks so much for making us aware.

Lesley Cookman said...

And it's my birthday, too.

Dyscalculia needs the awareness Dyslexia has. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

thank you for posting this, I'm doing research on this little-known condition because I need to learn how to overcome it. I am in year nine at secondary school now and I'm laughed at and picked on and even called pathetic by my maths teacher and other students for my inability to do anything numbers related. I'm terrified that this condition is ruining my life. I know I am not stupid maths is the only lesson i struggle with with others I tend to be the top of the class. I get told I am good at writing and even like Hermione out of Harry Potter. But still people who are not my friends judge me they think I am thick, an idiot that I don't try hard enough. And I know I could get a good job. But colleges don't accept anyone who fails maths and I know i'll fail Do you have any advice?

Nell Dixon said...

Dear Anonymous, Remember you are not alone and you are not - I repeat not - stupid. My best advice is to print this out and go see your math teacher and explain that you need some help to achieve the grade you need for a college place later on. With support now you won't fail - there is a lot that can be done to help support you. If you feel your math teacher doesn't understand and they should know about dyscalculia, then go and see the special education co-ordinator in your school and show them this post. Exam boards can give extra time to people if they have recognised problems so push your school to look into this for you - get your parents to help. The dyscalculia forum can be very helpful too.Good luck and you always have a friendly ear here if you need one.