I remember growing up and feeling like such a failure because I could never understand math. I’d watch, I’d try, I’d ask questions, I’d practice, I’d try again. Nothing ever helped. It was so bad that in grade 10, my math teacher spoke to me privately and told me that even though I was only getting a 27% as my average, he’d give me a 51% if I promised to never take math again. I took the deal!
Many years later, my youngest daughter started having the same issues that I did. Good at everything else but math made no sense. Thankfully these days we have better educational testing and she was found to have dyscalculia. Most people are far more familiar with dyslexia that affects people’s abilities in reading and writing. Dyscalculia causes issues in the ability to work with numbers, patterns, telling time (or remembering it). Some daily living issues that can be caused are things like an inability to judge how much time has passed, remembering important numbers (even your own phone number), doing simple math to ensure you get correct change in a store and that sort of thing.
It can also have a genetic link so I was tested as well and yes, that is why I could never do math no matter how hard I tried.
These days they have special ways to teach kids with this issue but back in the 70’s? Not so much.
Now this is the part of the story that annoys me. You see, I was an excellent student. In English, French, history, geography, sciences, and any other class I found my way in to. I always excelled. My average (math excluded) usually fell in the 95-97% range and my IQ is 148. Sounds great right?
It should have been but it wasn’t. Every time my schooling was discussed, my math was all anyone spoke about. I was called lazy, uninterested, and if I would just “apply myself”, I’d be doing amazingly well. Really? Did they think I applied myself for every single class except math? Not really… they just only saw the downfall and not all my success. This left me feeling and believing that I just wasn’t “smart enough” to get it.
I’ve begun to learn a very important lesson over the past decade or so because of this experience. Math is a great skill to have and there are certainly some issues that can present a difficulty but I can more than make up for the lack of math skills with my other abilities.
Why do we put so much emphasis on the areas that we lag in rather than putting our achievements on display?
I can not do any math at all but my husband is a whiz at it. He shocks me with his ability to just mentally know an answer that I wouldn’t even figure out with a calculator. That said? My husband who went to school in the 60’s and 70’s was never able to read or write well. Judging by the ways that he struggles, I would guess he is dyslexic. Of course he felt himself to be stupid because he could never do the subjects that involved a lot of reading or writing. Sad right?
I am sure that every one of you has an area where you lack competence. That said? This in no way means you are incompetent. It just means that your gifts lay elsewhere. What sort of boring world would this be if we could all do things with the same proficiency as the next person and no one rose to the top in one area while their friend or spouse were good at something else? If everyone could draw, figure skate, write books, offer therapy, become a nurse, figure our the maths and sciences like they were child’s play, drive a race car, fly to the moon, or any other skill… how could we be special? How could we share our gifts with others? We wouldn’t need to because they could do it too. We’d rarely be amazed by beautiful artwork, touched by a heartfelt song, impressed while watching a sport, thankful to a nurse or teacher for their willingness to help, stunned by a piece of beautiful handcrafted jewellery, interested in buying a book, or stunned by a chefs flavourful creation. Can you imagine?
The next time that you are beating yourself up because you can’t figure something out or you just really do not care about something that someone else feels that you should? Forget about it! Know that there are other people in this world who can do that for you. Then take a look at yourself and notice what you have to offer this world as a unique individual. Use the heck out of it!
I have done many things in my life but my favourite one of all has been writing. I feel I can explain things in a way that most people can’t. My background knowledge in medicine helps with that side of things and my own mental health issues have brought me an awareness that many other people do not have. This is my skill. My place in this world. I am other things too. An AWESOME wife (just ask my husband), a terrific/terrible mother (just ask my teenagers), a great friend, a supporter of those who remain silent due to fear, and one heck of a skilled computer game nerd. I am NOT admitting what I play though… it’s shockingly geeky. My skills add to the world around me but my lack of competence in other areas in no way leaves a hole.
To all you mathematicians, teachers, painters, car builders, firemen, soldiers, farmers, poets, therapists, and the thousands of other gifted people out there? Thank you for being you! Thank you for doing jobs that I can not or would not do.
In trade? I will write for you and care about you. That makes me good enough.