I just graduated with my master in engineering. Got a degree in physics, bs in engineering and now my master in engineering. Been through all math/physics/chemistry courses but always knew something was wrong and I never questioned it until now...I kept thinking that once i grow up or once I go through more schooling, things will start making sense. Science will make sense. I got decent grades on my courses but I attribute it to luck, grading curves and team work (I could always count on my team members to do the logical thinking).
As I think more about having a LD, the more things make sense: not being able to count numbers in my head, not knowing where letters in the alphabet lie unless I sign the alphabet in my head, remembering how tough it was to learn to read the analog clock, not recalling facts that I should know by heart from how many times ive seen/studied them (in history/science).
Now I feel trapped, I have been in science all my life, I have spent a fortune in school and I feel it all has been a waste, like my mind doesnt get science/math even though that is all I have ever studied. I am looking for jobs in the only thing that I am trained to do while knowing that I cant perform.
I am so harsh on myself, call myself stupid and slow in my head but I know that I am not stupid, because I am able to recognize that there is a problem even if I am late. So in the past weeks Ive been trying to be kind to myself, to admit that there is a problem and to do what I can to remediate what I can.
I started selecting the areas for which I want some improvement to be content with myself: Basic arithmetic, General History facts, General Science facts, General Literature...to start with.
I created an excel spreasheet in which i generate random numbers and I add them up...but that is all i have done so far. I wish there would be a "do it yourself" guide to dealing with dyscalculia. I am not saying I want to be math genius...but I want to be able to go out to eat and make it easy for me to calculate 15% tip without sweating or taking out my fingers.
Something along the lines of "Do it yourself" - Survival tips for adults with dyscalculia: Tips to do math in your head, tips on remember dates and facts in your head, games to play to improve your skills...Why isn't there such thing?
I didn't even know dyscalculia existed until a month ago...I kept googling "I cant count" and looking for others with similar searches until I did and I am thankful but now I want to do something about it...I dont want to keep beating myself over this.
Sorry for the long post, I just needed to vent and put it all out there...I hope I can find others to relate to and/or to give me advice.
Look into books written by Ronit Bird and use them. For games, consider one called Shut the Box. The Mathematics Made Meaningful is a book that explains the Cuisenaire rods and helped me break down math concepts for my child with dyscalculia. DH and I are both BSEEs.
Location: Texas USA Posts: 6103 Joined: 2008-05-25
I'm glad that all of your Googling paid off and now you've found us. What you've done is just fantastic. And I know how much time and effort it must have cost you. Isn't it amazing how well hidden the information about MLD has been? It's kinda like the old Pink Panther movie where he tried to 'expect the unexpected'. It seems like there's not only no one out there whose job it is to tell us about dyscalculia, but the prevalent ambiance in most colleges is 'Shu-u-u. Don't tell them about it. If they find out, they might go and tell others about it."
Just like you, I'd kept thinking that with more careful study,... more in depth reading,... starting again at a lower level,... maybe trying some different brands of math books,... somehow, that there must be a way for me to not feel like I'd 'missed getting the memo'. By the time I'd failed Elementary Algebra three times, all I wanted was my paralegal degree and to get out of there. About that time, I found out about dyscalculia and joined this forum. I got support here all through my process of being tested and diagnosed.
Thank you so much. YES yes yes! Everything you said sounds familiar...everything people here say sound so familiar. It is so tough for me psychologically bc I have earned these degrees already. I have made it through school by sheer luck and everyone thinks Im such a smart math girl when inside I am not...its like living another life
One of my biggest pet peeves is ignorance. I come from a developing country where the majority of the population is under educated and extremely ignorant about science, history , pretty much anything intellectual. And it hurts so much to feel just as ignorant when I can't remember facts, when I read books and I can't even say what they were about right after I am done, when I struggle with math so much....How can I preach others about not being ignorant but be "ignorant" by force and not choice?
It is interesting that you suggest teaching, I have never thought about it. How come it came up to your mind?
Thank you very much for your words. I had no idea how nice it feels to feel "normal".
Is there a thread on types of exercises to work on? I get ideas of things I should work on but I hate not knowing if I am wasting time or helping myself.
For example, for some time, I would take the yellow pages on my down time and try to add numbers on the phone book for like 10 minutes....after doing it for like a week, it got boring and I stopped....Are there proven techniques that we can benefit from? Like, is using a time watch a good idea? How many problems to work on in a day without pushing it too much? Should I attempt to re-learn numbers the way they were taught to me in school or should I work on visualizing them in a different way?
Location: Texas USA Posts: 6103 Joined: 2008-05-25
I use my fingers. My left pinkie is 'one'. I think of them as being 'palms down'. So, the thumb of my left hand is 'five'. And the thumb of my right hand is 'six'. The pinkie of my right hand is 'ten'. My grandmother taught me to add columns of single digit numbers by first counting up all of the 'fives', for example. If there were a lot of 'fives', I get those counted up first, and maybe make a tiny note out to the side. Then, if there are several 'sevens', I'll get a total on those next and jot that total down underneath the first notation. Next comes the part where I add smaller numbers in a series, partly visualizing and partly just 'feeling' those numbers inside of my fingers. If I'm adding, for example, 'eight' plus 'five', I first think of the 'eight' as my middle finger on the right hand, and then I see those last two fingers on my right hand,.... but here's where I had to stretch my imagination a little,... I then envision the other 'three' (of that 'five' that I'm adding), as being three more fingers out to the right of my right pinkie. Once I got so that I could envision having more fingers out to the right of my right hand, then I was 'good to go'. Once I have a total for that single digit column of numbers, of course, I have to write it down and 'carry' the 'one' or the 'two', as the case may be. So, for me, using this method, the hardest numbers for me to add would be something like 'seven' plus 'nine', because this would require imagining too many fingers out to the right of my right hand. To add those numbers, then, I would turn the 'seven' and the 'nine' around, so that I'm seeing 'nine real fingers' and then I'll think, "The right pinkie is 'left over'. I'll use it as 'one' of those 'seven', leaving 'six', added to my (obviously) ten fingers,... so 16 !!!" It looks and sounds long and cumbersome, but I've done addition this way for so long that I'm pretty fast at it. However, if there is any pressure at all for me to rush, then that interferes with my speed. I began explaining my method here on this forum because I could see that some dyscalculics never had had enough peace in their lives (regarding math) to be able to come up with a solution that would work for them.
Su Ingles es tan natural que yo hubiera pensado que vive aca en los EEUU. Le surgeri la profesion de profesora porque se que hay escaces de profesoras de las ciencias. So, I'll just let everyone have the fun of plugging this into a translation software if they don't understand it. ;) - jus'
Oh wao. I did not get anything from your counting strategies, it seems very complicated but I bet you are used to it. Thanks for sharing. Si, soy Dominicana, como supiste que era hispana? I came from DR to study engineering...so maybe you can imagine how hard it is for me to have made it all the way here, all the money invested in my "american" education and have this humongous problem that no one in my family is even aware of....Most days I feel like such a failure because they look up to me as the kid that made it in the US and will get a fantastic engineering job because I am super smart and graduated from amazing schools and when I down play it and say that I just got really lucky, everyone believes I am being modest. MODEST!? ....I could only wish.
I'm going to be a lot more frank and a lot less nurturing with you than I am with people in less quantitative fields. I apologize, but I think it needs to be said; stop defining your own worth in terms of what you think other people are good at.
Stop trying to count. Stop trying to practice the things you will never be good at. You'll never be anything but mediocre at specific tasks; that's just how the dice landed. No exercise, no amount of practice is going to change that. The only thing you can change is what you, personally, think matters.
Focus on the things you ARE good at. Hone them. You don't need to be an expert in everything; you just need to be good enough at one thing, any one thing.
Think about this. You've made it. You went in, and came out the other side despite the limitations you are working with. A little bit of luck, and lot of perseverance. That is worth its weight in gold to a lot of employers.
Instead of wasting time adding columns of numbers, which is a hugely useless skill for someone in our position, start learning computer programs to take the grunt arithmetic work out of math. Personally, I use a huge array of free tools, such as Maxima, Scipy/Numpy/Matplotlib, and Open Office's Calc. There are more, but those cover the major bases. I also use a HP 50g calculator constantly.
A person in your position, given a tool like Maxima or Scipy, can do more with numbers despite not being able to add than any other fool who spends their time adding columns of numbers up. This is what matters.
You get paid for results; it largely doesn't matter how you get to them. Pick the path that fits you, not the path other people choose for you.
On the engineering, professional development side, look into learning MatLab by Mathworks and C++ programming. A friend of a friend is a PhD NASA Physicist with dyscalculia. LD scientists are around you way more than you'd ever realize. You are probably very skilled with using MS EXCEL. There is no shame in that.
This is funny...A very good friend of mine is a PhD Physicist that works in a nuclear, rocket lab. As a child, his parents were told that he was mentally retarded. Given his profession and expertise, that tester was very wrong. This gentleman is 51 years old. Times were much worse for LDs 40 or so years ago.
I live in Huntsville, AL for those of you that may be interested. Congratulations on your academic achievements.
Edited by heathermomster on February 02 2012 04:22 PM
Thank you toastydeath and heathermomster for your replies. I have been checking this site constantly for the past two days. I am just in awe everytime I read about similar symptoms, I always thought I was just slow and stupid so this helps me tremendously.
The thing is that wish dyscalculia was just my only problem, the more I reflect on my past experiences and my day to day life, I realize that there are many other "slow" parts of me. In education, is not only not knowing basic arithmetic, it is also my processing/comprehension capability. I can learn and re learn and learn once again Chemistry 101, and every single time I run into it unexpectedly I have to learn it as if I have never seen it before. The terminology sounds familiar and I KNOW I have studied this before but nothing, my brain just does nothing. In a field such as engineering, people are known for being quick on their feet, thinking of solutions on the spot, being creative and trusting in their past skills to work through problems...I just don't think I can do this.
Aside from education, this working memory thing happens in all other aspects of my life: recalling the narrative of a book I just read, giving a synopsis of a movie I just went to see, talking about history facts with my friends, not being able to concentrate when people are talking to me. I always like being in like a 3 person convo bc I can just space out and let the other two talk...it is just so hard to concentrate. Name anything: politics, pop culture, music...my mind just SKIPS all these important issues all the time.
I wish I could just say screw this and I'll love myself regardless but I just feel like I live in this bubble in my head the majority of the day that I literally have no left over brain space to process ANYTHING that's external to me. I just wish I knew an effective procedure to do this...should I just give up?
Someone with more experience in these matters needs to help you...My suggestion for you would be to speak with a medical professional and get their advice. Seek referrals and get tested. It's pointless to speculate what you may or may not have. A professional, qualified to test, can provide a diagnosis and written report. Once you fully understand the issues at hand, you may go about seeking help using the appropriate strategy. I wish I could help you more.
Editing to add: Math remediation is painfully slow. I have been working with my son in a very directed way for nearly a year. There is no instant, quick cure. I have to manage expectations for DS and myself. These LDs are biological in nature. Understand, that math issues simply cannot be resolved overnight.
For DS, I use a concrete-pictorial-abstract approach to learning. Many math programs are available for homeschoolers. Look into Math U See, Miquan, and Right Start Math. This math business is extremely frustrating.
Edited by heathermomster on February 02 2012 07:34 PM
Estudie Espanol a la universidad y me gusto much pero no lo uso a menudo ahora....
I agree with 'jus on the wonderful achievement you've accomplished but I'm sorry you feel trapped and that it was so wasted :-(
I don't have any great ideas for you besides diagnosis...just wanted to wish you well here.
This is my story-
I was diagnosed with math LD in college after continually failing remedial college math. I was also tired of having such issues with analog clocks and so I read up on the possibility and self-referred to Disabled Student Services. I was born a couple of months premature and was in Special Ed as a kid for speech and language and in a "special" gym class spontaneously arranged during my 7th or 8th grade years, for kids who didn't "fit"/perform average or well in that class. It was held in a large utility room where they stored the weight equipment and mats etc. The teacher would come in and give us - about 6 -8 of us - our assignment and then go back out to the main floor where everybody else was. It was a mixed group of "outsiders" and "just-not-popular" kids - a very obese girl, someone who was electively mute etc . A couple of the kids who were in there were one of my many bullies on the "outside" and they themselves were also bullied. My mom found out about arrangement that and was she pissed.
So, I've always had trouble with sequence, spatial orientation, some motor skills <putting gloves on and learning to suck through a straw as a young child for example>, handwriting issues in elementary grades....didn't learn to tell time or count money til high school. Still have difficulty with those things and have never worn a watch. I was also allegedly born with missing inner ear bones.
Always in highest reading and writing groups, took AP English and Bio in high school and went to an arts specialty high school.
I still count on my fingers - and don't hide it. I take extra time in line and often get change wrong.
I tend to think in pictures and have difficulty with spoken or written multi-step directions...units of measurement mean nothing to me <feet, inches>. I don't know how to use a ruler.
But LD was never caught.
I graduated from my university with a double major in Spanish and Sociology and for a time was case manager working with people with cognitive disabilities and on the severe end of the autism spectrum.
Diagnosis really has the potential to hold the key to putting someone with LD on the same level starting point as their peers. I was tested free through my Vocational Rehab agency as my parent's dependent, and also based on family income.
I hope you can get the testing if you want...if you give us your area or region<doesn't have to be specific> maybe one of us may be able to locate some resource possibilities for you....
Edited by RottieWoman on February 03 2012 09:44 AM
To clear up a misunderstanding, I'm not saying you just learn to ignore it and love yourself for who you are. I'm saying you should stop putting value in traditional memory skills, because you can't make use of them or the methods used to train that way.
These things you are suggesting are unlikely to help you in a meaningful way. By looking for conventional strategies for learning and memorizing, you shoot yourself in the foot; you already know they don't work or you wouldn't be on this forum.
I'm going to echo the advice of others and suggest going to a LD specialist. You need vastly different strategies to learn than the average person, and unless you can experiment and discover your own strategies (which is very difficult), you are going to need professional direction and assistance.
One of the major problems I have found in a similar situation as an (engineering/science/math student) is that most dyscalculic people are quite reasonably looking for a way to mitigate the need for math. The strategies they develop are fundamentally different from the ones you need. Your job will involve higher level mathematical concepts than what the average person knows exists, much less has to deal with.
Most dyscalculic people have the practical, functional approach where arithmetic is viewed as the near entirety of math, because that is what people in general deal with. There is a lack of experience and understanding that arithmetic becomes almost a non-issue at higher classes in engineering and science, and that the difficulties change completely.
So, at least in my experience, getting strategies from other people tends to be a non-starter, because of the differences in what you need to do vs. what other people with similar problems need to do. My methods to remember things like trigonometric integrals and the Laplace transforms are very different from the methods other people have to make change and read analog clocks.
You are going to have to talk to someone who specializes in disorders of memory and how people can learn with working memory problems, and the sooner you get started on that, the better off you will be. There is no LD remediation in the world of engineering; this isn't an art college. You're being paid to solve problems, not create excuses why you can't do a thing.
It is unfortunately up to you, who went down this path, to find the solutions. And you absolutely can, you just need help developing strategies. Go see your doctor immediately, get a referral, and don't put it off.
For people in our situation, I don't think it is worth getting tested unless you absolutely have to for insurance purposes. The reality is that math is not peripheral to you job. It IS your job, and they can fire you, disability or no, without legal consequence for not being able to do it just like a company can fire someone in a wheelchair whose job it is to run up and down stairs.
as far as "excuses" go, I know I don't "create" them ......
as far as testing, one reason why it -could- be beneficial is that if you decide to try for a different degree of educational option, the diagnosis could help you in pursuing that and getting classroom accommodations.
As far as the workplace, one way the testing could be useful is it simply gives more weight to the claim of having LD, and employers or peers could be more patient and flexible with you and be willing to work with you - which means a lot when it comes to a job.
in the analogy of the person who uses a wheelchair, one accommodation could be extra time to take the elevator in place of the stairs to get their actual work location, or exchange that part of the essential function of the job with another willing employee who can utilize stairs. Now if the job of the person who uses the chair, is to literally test stairs in terms of texture or something, than I guess I don't quite yet see how that could be changed. But if the person's job would be run up and down stairs taking memos to different floors, for example - well, how else could that be achieved?
now I know these are basic examples, but a lot depends on exactly what the variables are....
one thing that helped me in my job as a case manager working with other people with disabilities is trying to think outside the box a bit and re-frame things....
Edited by RottieWoman on February 03 2012 09:57 AM
Now I feel trapped, I have been in science all my life, I have spent a fortune in school and I feel it all has been a waste, like my mind doesnt get science/math even though that is all I have ever studied.
As I think more about having a LD, the more things make sense: not being able to count numbers in my head, not knowing where letters
---------- Debra Fine
Thank you all for your replies. So I was severely depressed the last two years of school and whenever I brought up academics with my school therapist, they would just say how it was fine, that everyone in ivy league schools feel the same way, that we are just so used to being the best that when we are put with the best, we think we suck....They never listened to me! I would say over and over again how I don't get concepts, how I cant remember things I KNOW I've been taught and learned before. They tried to get me on antidepressents even though I said that I felt just as slow and stupid when I wasn't in college or depressed. I wasn't saying that depression wasn't making it worse, I was just saying that depression was not the cause of my academic problems but a consequence.
I did fine in my classes and I did graduate but ask me anything about what I learn and i have no clue.
Toastydeath, for example, you mentioned Laplace transform...I remember the name and that I learned it in physics but thats about it...I dont know what they are used for, when you would use them....I know I have seen that name before, that's it.
The reason why I say I got really lucky with my courses is because I have always has teachers that feel sorry for me because of how nice I am and how hard I try to get things. Give me a procedure and ill redo it and memorize it, but ask me to do logic and you will lose me.
So back to depression, I finally got my therapist to test me for LD's. She said I had to take an ADD test and the one for me, was within that test. I believe it was the WISC, an thats when I discovered that I had issues with math....i came out after the test crying like a child...the tester put a tape with numbers in sequence and I had to add every couple of numbers...needless to say I couldn't get pass the first two numbers even tho he kept trying...he even asked me if the numbers where in spanish, if that would make a difference....it wouldn't have.
I never saw the results, he discussed them with me but didn't give me a name for anything, he said I did not have ADD but that I had enough problems to be considered a LD and that he could get me special accommodations at school which I did not care at the time because once you pass to higher degree courses, tests and time are not a problem...It is using logic to solve problems, being efficient about your procedure. I was not looking for straight A's...I was looking for a way to deal with this problem. I think he thought it was too late.
He sent the results to my therapist who said that other students had had issues with this tester person and that I shouldnt be hard on myself, that the test said that I was good at visualizing things but my working memory sucks. He was amazed at how I managed to go through engineering school. Both my therapist and psychiatrist told me that their job was to get me to graduate, that that was the big bump...my therapist ended up leaving the school and finding another job so my case wasn't really continued.
Location: Texas USA Posts: 6103 Joined: 2008-05-25
Wow, that's quite a story about your testing with the WISC and the therapist who left the school. Okay, when you look at your scores and your Report from that testing, did the therapist give you a Mathematics Disorder diagnosis? It's 3.15 from the DMS, and it might be posted on Axis I (one) of your test scores. Here's the thing about the psychologist who tested you,... it may well be that he was the only one there at that school who truly understood dyscalculia. Other psychologists there may have resented his efforts at identifying this LD. They may even have been 'well-intentioned',... thinking that it's just 'one more label' and that it wouldn't be of any use to you. I don't think this at all. It was very important to me to get that diagnosis. It was a huge relief to me. Plus, it's enabled me to get a two-year degree, and perhaps to soon have a four-year degree. You'll read story after story here on the forum of dyscalculics who were very happy and relieved when they got their diagnosis.
We had another forum member, named 'lost', who was a math student in an Eastern country. She expressed feelings much like yours. In her country, everybody who was anybody was good at math. To not be good at math made that person a 'nobody'. She was such a sweet, intelligent lady. But the pressure must have been tremendous on her. The rest of her family were also mathematicians.
Que lindo poder hablar con usted aqui. Podemos ocupar la funcion de mensajes privados en cualquier momento que desea. Yo soy estadounidense, pero vivi in sur america por muchos anos, y alli aprendi el espanol. En el colegio aqui, quise sacar un titulo en arte, pero tuve que cambiar a una especialidad en espanol. A la profesora de pintura, no le gusto mi arte! :( Le extrana la DR? - jus'
Well, I actually never saw the results nor the scores, my school psychologist at the time and the tester were the only ones that saw it, they talked to me about it a couple of times but nothing in depth...They blamed the whole thing on depression and focused on getting me on drugs and graduated rather than in measures or methods I could use to help myself. It is very tough for me to get my point across because most of my friends, family, and even the psychologists think I am whining about not getting straight A's or a 4.0 GPA when multiple times I would say that I don't care about grades or a degree....I have them....I just want to feel like I am not dumb and slow ALL the time. That I can have a smart conversation with someone about anything factual and feel like I can sustain that conversation....
Even in this forum I see it all the time...other gifted qualities even many of you are not good at math...I just feel like I have every type of LD...It's not like "Oh, I am not good at math but I am good at literature, or art or history" I don't have anything to balance my lack of math skills.
I sometimes think that maybe I could have been good at another area of my life but now I don't have the time nor the resources o figure that out...Sorry about ranting...this is just so frustrating...
Location: Texas USA Posts: 6103 Joined: 2008-05-25
Yes, isn't it just awful when they get an idea in their heads making it impossible for them to see it from any other angle? <sighs> I'd tried to get help on math from my math teacher previous to my finding out about dyscalculia. He wouldn't help me. I'd even written him an email saying that, I'd probably be 90 years old and still trying to pass Elementary Algebra. He wrote back, "You'll get it, even if it takes until you're 90." It was so frustrating that he couldn't grasp that I wasn't wanting to spend my entire life just trying to pass Elementary Algebra. Since he was a math teacher and loved math, to him, that seemed like a fun way to live ones life.
I've felt the same as you. Though I have talents, I don't have any one talent that's actually been good enough to me to find and keep a good job. I've always been just barely holding things together. I know what you mean. - jus'