From the very beginning, I had trouble with math. My mother was so incredibly patient with me I now realize, and for that, I can’t thank her enough. (I think I would have chucked me out the window if I had been her.) I used to throw a tantrum literally every day because I would get so frustrated and I didn’t know how to handle it. Eventually I learned to cry silent tears as I stared down at the page, confused and exhausted.
My mother encouraged and helped me to no end. And as a result of that, I was able to learn basic math. Multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction, these I can do, though I often make mistakes with them. But when it comes to the more advanced stuff… I’ve only ever been able to get a vague and general understanding of it, enough to barely scrape by on a test but not enough that I actually know what I’m doing.
Retention is a problem. I just don’t remember numbers. Whether it’s a date, a time, or a phone number, I have to write it down and be able to look at it when I need to recall that information because it’s really hard to get numbers to stay in my head. Seeing as you can’t use your notes on most tests, that’s kind of a problem. When I was a kid, it took me ages to be able to remember my birthday. Same thing with remembering my phone number. I often feel bad for not remembering people’s birthdays, especially when they remember mine. I never memorized my times tables. My mom tried flash cards, math video games, math songs, and just about everything you can think of, to no avail. So I still have to skip count in my head. (Some numbers I can’t skip count either. So I’m literally sitting there going “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7… 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14…” Roman numerals I could never get the hang of either. Or reading an analog clock. The fact that it’s extremely difficult to store anything number related in my head adds extra steps to doing the problem and probably contributes to the fatigue.
The fatigue. Ah, yes. It takes me a really long time to do math problems. This varies, but the more steps needed to complete the problem, and the more complicated the steps, the longer it takes. If you gave me a page of 50 math problems it might take me literal hours to do them. And it doesn’t take me very long to become fatigued. After 20 of these problems I may be so tired that I can no longer think. This fatigue is mind-numbing and I often continue pushing myself until I start to tear up and can no longer see the page. I just cannot explain numb, blank feeling of complete exhaustion.
Oh, and I can’t do math in my head. Have to write it down. Which can be kind of embarrassing when I’m trying to figure out a percentage or a “if so-and-so was born in _ how old are they now” question and have to find a piece of paper, or if none is available, ask Google.
Now I’ve heard it said that there’s no such thing as just not being a math person or just not being good at math. Our brains are made for this stuff so if you’re bad at math it’s your own fault. You just need to try harder, and have a better attitude about it. To hear this is pretty frustrating to me. Given that I’ve always tried hard and wracked my brain to try to learn this stuff, pushed myself as hard as I could even when I was so tired I couldn’t think, had all the help I could ever need, and have always given it my best shot, I think I can say with certainty that I’m not a math person, and it’s not because I’m lazy. Surely not everyone is wired the same way and excels at the same things. Whether you choose to believe it or not, I’m not good at math because that’s just not the way I’m wired. And I’m sick of being told that’s my fault. As for attitude, well if something is frustrating, confusing, exhausting, and makes you feel stupid, naturally you’re not going to love it. But I’ve gotten good grades in subjects I couldn’t care less about. This is different. So before you tell someone they just need to try harder or all they need is a better attitude, you might want to think twice about that. Just because you are good at something doesn’t mean everybody who isn’t is lazy.
So now I’m in college, and naturally worried about having to eventually take some math courses. My biggest fear is tests. Seeing how long it takes me to do math problems and how quickly I become fatigued, I can see myself not being able to finish the test in time and having to hand it over with only half the problems done. This is a really worrying thought.
Just know that if you struggle with math, you’re by no means alone.