Location: United States Posts: 1860 Joined: 2008-11-14
This is just my ten cents, and I am sure plenty of people will both agree and disagree with me. With that disclaimer...
I have read your intro post (haven't commented on it yet, because I saw this first, then went to read your intro before coming back here) and see that you're a financial analyst, which is extremely impressive for someone among our ranks. I don't think you said whether or not you had a dyscalculia diagnosis, or if it's just something you think you might have, but either way I can understand the frustration of not being able to do mental math. Just today I was in line at Target and wildly underestimated the cost of my armful of goodies. Luckily I had enough cash to cover it either way, but I'm sure the look on my face when the total rang up showed my surprise!
With or without dyscalculia, having a hard time with math can often lead to performance anxiety regarding math. Some teachers/professors even dismiss a dyscalculic student's real needs, by saying it's "just anxiety", as if anxiety is a minor thing. As someone who has been struggling with panic disorder and agoraphobia for years, I really do understand how upsetting anxiety can be, and how much it can interfere with your life.
It sounds to me, though, like your anxiety isn't a general anxiety or social phobia, or panic disorder... it's truly "math anxiety." If you have anxiety in situations that don't involve math, please correct me, but from what you've posted before and in this post it sounds like your anxiety is strictly related to your mathematical performance.
If that is correct, then medication really isn't the best avenue for you to take. Fast acting anti-anxiety medications (like benzodiazepines) are great for panic attacks and specific phobias, but they don't SOLVE the problem, they only make it tolerable. I've been taking Xanax (a benzodiazepine) for years to deal with my panic disorder, and I have just finally found a psychiatrist who has uncovered the world of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to me (and I thank God for her and it). The Xanax does work, but it doesn't solve the underlying problem, the panic disorder.
Think of it like this: Your oven doesn't work, and every time you try to cook something in it, the thing you're trying to cook catches on fire. When the food goes up in flames, hopefully your smoke detector goes off. The smoke detector is telling you, "Fire! Fire!" Taking anti-anxiety medication to "smooth over" panic attacks is like sticking earplugs in your ears. Sure, you don't have to listen to the ear-piercing shriek of the smoke detector anymore, but it didn't do anything to actually fix the problem (that your oven is broken and setting everything on fire). The (seemingly) obvious solution would be to fix the oven, so that it wouldn't keep setting fires and your smoke detector would stop going off.
Unfortunately, anxiety disorders aren't such well-defined problems in the real world, but the same principal applies. You can cover up the symptoms, perhaps, or you can deal with the root problem. The root problem for you, it seems, is a genuine struggle with mental math capabilities.
My suggestion? Meander into your local big box store and ask where they keep children's flash cards. They make them with all kinds of characters on them - Disney princesses, Transformers, Nemo and friends, just to name a few that I've seen. Do not be ashamed; everyone will assume you're buying them for your kid, or someone else's kid. Buy them in any areas you have problems with: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, whatever it is that is giving you grief.
After you buy them, use them. Set aside 15-20 minutes every night to go over them, maybe right before bed, since studies show that it does improve retention rates to review material right before going to sleep (you form long-term memories during the REM portion of your sleep cycle.) When you get really good at the "little kid" flash cards, buy a pack of 300 index cards and make "big people" flash cards with larger numbers, or the types of numbers/equations you might run into at work.
The idea is that practice makes perfect. If you do it enough, it becomes rote, and you will find yourself knowing the answers without even having to really think about it. Instead of having to do the process in your head, you will just know automatically that 9 - 5 is 4, or that 57 - 35 is 22, as a semantic fact rather than a mental process.
It's worth knowing that in psychology there is a term called "social facilitation" which refers to the tendency for people to act increasingly on their automatic response when doing the act in front of a group. That means if you are doing a very simple task, or a more complex task that you have mastered, you will do it better in front of a group than you do by yourself because your "automatic response" is the correct one (to do it right).
Conversely, if the task is very complex and/or it is something you have not mastered, you are likely to perform worse in front of a crowd because your "automatic response" is likely not the correct one, because you have not mastered it. So if doing mental math is not something you have mastered or something that has become simple (rote) for you, psychologically speaking you will tend to perform worse in front of a group.
By using the flash cards and sharpening your mental math skills, you will make the simple math equations a "mastered" skill in your repertoire, and will actually start doing them better in front of groups once you have mastered them.
Those are just my thoughts on the matter, and I am interested to see what else people have to say about it. Hopefully something I've said will help you!
"The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings." - Eric Hoffer
Location: Texas USA Posts: 6101 Joined: 2008-05-25
It's me again,... jus'. Here's my disclaimer -- I'm afraid that many of the drugs that are supposed to 'help' people are doing them damage in some other way. I was really glad to see that Kat, even though she does take some prescriptions, was also urging you to do all that you can to avoid taking them if possible.
And here's my two cents worth. As I read you story here and also on Introductions, and then read Kat's helpful insights, something crystalized in my mind. Let's see if I can manage to share it without getting 'bogged down' in my own story.
I worked for a big company doing customer service in a call center. Yes, there were numbers and some math, but this wasn't a problem other than making me a little slower than the other CSR's, so let's not even take this into account for the moment. Here's what I want to tell you. We had a very rude and intimidating manager. He would come into our headsets during our conversation with a customer to correct us. He would come into our headsets when we'd think that we had a call from a customer online, and, without so much as identifying himself, would say, "Come to my office", scaring me half to death a couple of times. Once I'd get to his office, it was practically a 'mind game' worthy of a CSI episode, and there was no escaping until he had had his fun. This was very exhausting physically and emotionally. It had nothing to do with math. I'm thinking that the math itself isn't what's got you into your present (what can I call it?) condition. I think that you're just feeling this way because of the pure stress of being under so much scrutiny, and not being able to produce the "awesome and instant" calculations that your superiors expect of someone holding your position. Even a math whiz might have excessive stress in that job. I don't want you to loose the job, the money, or the prestige,... I just don't want you to be made sick over it either. Be sure to read my posting to you on the other Thread. Best wishes. - jus'
your words match my gut instinct and my research findings.
I don't want to really go on meds, but like I said, I'm desperate. So I would if someone could guarantee that it worked. I know the right thing to do is attack the problem head on. But it's scary because you know that your going to be exposed.
Actually, I'm not really on the spot that much at work. I'm too low on the totem pole. However, to advance and lead meetings, there will certainly be situations where calculations will need to be made and as it stands everyone looks to leaders to handle the calculations.
So that what really scares me, knowing that one day I may be that person. What do I do then. Thankfully, communication skills account for more success in finance than math skills, and I excel there better than most. It's a double edged sword though. On the one hand, it means I have a good shot at promotion. However, it also means that I will more than likely be team leader, which means taking questions that require mental calculations in front of small and possibly large groups of people will fall on me. Unless I can overcome, my career is essentially capped. Changing fields is a possibility, but it's hard to find a career where you can afford to have family that doesn't require a fair amount of math.
In a nutshell. I'm not a fan of drugs. But if a ton folks were saying "hey, it worked for me", I'd give them a shot. At the end of the day , attacking the root of the problem is the only long term solution.
Location: Texas USA Posts: 6101 Joined: 2008-05-25
I'd just been mulling over (sort of like a cow ruminates) what I've learned in my nine months on this forum, together with my own life experiences as a dyscalculic (previously "diagnosed", and now "diagnosed" ), and I'm coming to a conclusion. If the world were an 'honest place' and if the world were 'a kinder and gentler place', you and people like you would be able perfectly well to hold the kind of job that you have.
It would work like this:
* You'd tell your boss and associates that you are dyscalculic.
* Your boss and associates would continue to have esteem for your abilities.
* You would lead those conference meetings, standing in front of everyone, and guiding them through the labyrinth of financial reasonings.
* When a 'mental math' problem would present itself, one of your co-workers, who would, of course, be paying attention with the same interest that you are paying, would see you 'catch his eye'.
* During a pause of a few seconds, he would perform the 'mental math' calculation and would verbally state his result for everyone's benefit.
* You would courteously thank him for his input, and you would continue in your role as team leader, giving your presentation, and drawing a conclusion.
Isn't it a shame that 'mental math' has come to have the elitest connotation of being the only 'smart' thing worth having? I doubt that Trump has to do any 'mental math' to impress his constituents
Edited by justfoundout on April 12 2009 04:35 PM