You’re Not Bad at Math, You’re Just Lazy: Math Worries and My Difficulties With Numbers

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.

 

 

 

 

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18 thoughts on “You’re Not Bad at Math, You’re Just Lazy: Math Worries and My Difficulties With Numbers

  1. Oh I so understand your struggles and rest assured it’s neither your fault nor something I think you can actually help or beat. You learn to find ways around things and little tricks and things that make it easier to get by but if your struggle with maths is like ours (I say ours because we share almost identical problems) the best thing to do is stop trying to force what’s not natural, find ways to help make life easier and aim more towards managing it rather than fighting a losing battle.

    There isn’t any formal diagnosis for number dyslexia as such but there are tests that help ascertain whether you might suffer from a condition that makes your brain just that less able to master things.

    As a kid I found all things English just a breeze. Remember being out of school for two weeks when I had my tonsils removed aged 6yrs I think and my Mum contacted school to ask whether I would need to have work set / books to read and homework so I didn’t get behind. Teachers said in a heartbeat “No she’s already way ahead and won’t even need to catch up when she returns to school it’s fine£”

    I could never get my head around maths and found ways to skip out of maths class including pretending to be ill or suddenly needing to use the loo or anything to get me out of maths tests or quizzes.

    In secondary school I was deliberately disruptive in class and eventually throw out of maths for good so left school without any qualification whatsoever. I was bright enough but subjects like maths and science were impossible so I never took either and left school with only a handful of qualifications but told fibs and added a basic grade C on my CV and application forms including the one I took to study and qualify in health and nursing care. Sounds bad I know but I was able to get around it by nobody checking school certificates / having work experience and “on the job training”

    The biggest area that has been hard for me is undoubtedly with medication although I’m married to a diamond whose degree was in maths / physics and chemistry so he helped me find easy ways to remember and convert drugs and doses.

    Interestingly though because I know I’m pants and more likely than most to make mistakes, I take extra care when handling meds and to date have never made errors or signed off wrong drugs and miscalculated. I passed all my studies and qualified with flying colours and when I inspect and audit drugs there’s more chance of me spotting errors because I follow charts and count stock almost painfully slow.

    The main thing I came to realise the older and more qualified I became was that being open and honest about having some difficulties helps to no end. I’m rubbish at following charts, organising and reading rotas and that sort of thing and will ask staff to double check things with me so I know for sure they’re right.

    So basically I take what I need to know, made my peace and learned that being honest was by far the best way to getting by and not letting maths dictate or hold you back.

    https://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/dyslexic/maths-difficulties-dyscalculia

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  2. Forgot to say sorry – the learning support service in college should be able to help you with assessment if you speak to them about any problems you might have. My son was home-schooled but when he started college, the learning support department were great in helping him with assessment and allowing him additional time / use of laptop for his exams etc.

    Speak to them and see what they can suggest and help you with. Fortunately we’re leaps and bounds ahead nowadays and help is available 🙂

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    1. I haven’t seen that website before. I’ll check it out. I don’t know about tests… I have a friend who has the same problems as me, and she said she did some kind of test and was diagnosed with dyscalculia. No idea what kind of a test it was though. She wanted to be a veterinarian, but she’s given up on it. She’s tried really hard, and had some success with math, but not enough… she just can’t do the math required. I feel sad for her and can’t help but worry that my problems in this area will stop me from doing what I want to do. I’m not aiming for veterinarian, but I do want to be an animal behaviorist, which has academic requirements for sure. Still, not as much math as being a veterinarian I would hope.
      http://www.animalbehaviorsociety.org/web/applied-behavior-caab-application.php

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  3. Also yeah I feel for your friend too because no matter where in the world you live the requirements for veterinary work come are very academic. Still other ways and means of getting into veterinary work i.e. animal care / nursing assistant or even a qualified veterinary nurse though.

    Didn’t think there’d be too much emphasis on academic requirement for animal behaviourist to be honest but then again from looking at the info via the link I’m guessing that’s a generalised qualification for work right across the board?

    Wonder if you could gain a credit or otherwise qualify based on prior learning or experience doing other work which you can already consider yourself as having experience with Bree. Owning, training and even trick-training her counts towards more than you might think 🙂

    There’s nearly always an alternative route into doing what you want even it takes that bit longer to get there.

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    1. I think she’s going to try for becoming a vet tech. I really hope she succeeds.
      There definitely are some fairly rigorous academic requirements to become a behaviorist. That’s what makes them different from trainers, since there is no education or certification required to be an animal trainer. Which is why I wish people wouldn’t use “trainer” and “behaviorist” interchangeably Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of wonderful and very well-educated trainers who really know their stuff. But they’re not technically behaviorists since you have to go to school for that. But well… it’s just semantics though.
      I definitely want to give it my best shot and aim for becoming an associate applied animal behaviorist. I know there is some biology involved but I feel like it’s more psychology oriented? I am doing the “general studies: psychology” program at the community college here right now. Thus far I’ve only done the intro to psych course, (or almost done, we’re having our final exam in a few weeks,) but from what I’ve seen of psychology, it really fascinates me. There’s some math where statistics are concerned, but fortunately our professor hasn’t stressed that part and didn’t really test us on it even. But I think in general, the study of behavior doesn’t have quite as much of a math focus as other branches of science? I guess I’ll see how it goes.
      Probably more than half the quotes in my “Things Professors Say” post came from my psych professor, including the one about buttless chaps LOL.

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      1. I agree and think there should be more regulation particularly in the world of dog trainer which at present I’m sure anyone and everyone can call themselves and charge for the privilege.

        Also agree and think animal behaviourists probably work more with psychology than anything and I suspect you’ll probably focus more on human psychology and behaviour than anything. Animals generally don’t switch, chop and change their ideals, views and attitudes towards things it’s humans that constantly do all that stuff for better or worse.

        I did A-level psychology and loved it. Still do.

        One thing I really find interesting in the whole history of human and animal relationships including the earliest forms of training and how it’s changed over time. Have books written in late 1800’s – early 1900’s on dog training most of which make for diabolical reading but it’s important to understand how attitudes and approaches to training has changed for the better and worse. Also have books on the origins of circus animals (predominantly horse trainers / trick riders) and find it fascinating how we’ve changed and almost gone full circle then back again. Think humans are predisposed to just cocking things up over and over we never seem to really learn much.

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      2. Another interesting note is how individual dog groups vary in their approach / attitude and training techniques. Sheepdog handling and training is one area in which you very, very rarely find handlers raising a hand or using anything other than sounds and a mutual respect to train and work the way they do with dogs.

        One thing collies will often do when faced with a harsh, heavy handed handler is put the brakes on and actually refuse to do what they want because they don’t care for being bullied. Treat them well, show them respect but be a confident leader they can trust and want to work for and there’s no limit to what you can do.

        Again it’s always about the human and rarely about the dog 🙂

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      3. The smart collies putting on the brakes reminds me of one thing I read about why people usually didn’t ride mules into battle; they were too smart. They took one look and thought “heck no, I’m not going to put my life on the line for you, rider,” and they’d refuse to move or turn around and run the other way.

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      4. The cob mare near us that developed a reputation and everyone was scared to death of getting near was similar in that if she sensed you were all Johnny big bollocks she’d do nothing for you. Similarly if you were too soft or lacked confidence she’d do nothing for you either. Hannah and I have never once had a bit of bother with that horse – still don’t she’s a diamond. I jumped on her last week but slipped off sideways when I was trying to get sat up. She moved her foot carefully to the side and nudged me with her head all “What you doing there?”

        The rare time her owners get a bridle or lunge on her she drags them down the road like a John Wayne stunt double.

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      5. I’m curious: have you had issues with driving as well? I have a hard time judging, if that car is that distance away from me, how long will it take for them to get to where I am? Should I go or should I wait for them to pass? Of course I wait, unless they’re way off, then I know I can go, but if they’re not, I wait. Which annoys people.

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      6. I don’t have that no but think that’s something that comes with experience and confidence. Nearly every learner or new driver in world has that “do I or don’t I?” moment of indecision and either leaves it too late (driving out into the path of an oncoming car) or not quickly enough and been left sitting at a junction or set of traffic lights maybe longer than they should. You do develop that skill over time but I learned to drive much younger than I should courtesy of a toerag of a Father who would be up and down hiding out from police in what I now realise were “borrowed” (aka stolen) and older brothers who were rally drivers, drift racers and lorry drivers for a living so it was always drummed into me to be looking ahead and way before you hit the junction or roundabout. They used to go nuts if I drove up and then stopped “What are you doing?? You have perfect visibility there you can see there’s no traffic coming – don’t stall or stop the flow of traffic FFS keep rolling!!!!”

        That’s kind of how my driving lessons went. On my life I could drive or had drive more or less every type of vehicle by the time I was 16yrs old. Sports cars, tractors, lorries – everything.

        Was partly been helped by the years I spent riding daft too as it sounds. Most of my competitive riding days were on a cross country course which was really all about looking well ahead and planning which route to take on the fence AFTER the one we were about to jump. You approached a fence and had to plan for where you’d hit the landing side and where that left you ready for the next one.

        My advice for when you have a “Do I or don’t I?” moment is don’t – just don’t risk it. The worst thing that will happen is you’ll be waiting or maybe holding up the cars behind you for a few seconds longer but so what? It’s a few seconds and nobody is in that much of a hurry.

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      7. As I recall though you do have the thing about directions… which… yeah. Yes. Unfortunately yes. XD
        I was having a conversation with my mother earlier. “Did you ever finish that online dog agility course you were taking?”
        “No… I just don’t feel like that way of learning works for me. I can’t do it from watching a video; I have to have the person be there with me and literally walk me through it.”
        “You’re just not good at following directions then?”
        “No.”
        “I thought you would have outgrown that by now.”
        “I guess not.”
        “But it’s just like anything; just because you don’t have the skill doesn’t mean you can’t develop it.”
        As much as I appreciate the motivational speech, and I really do believe that I can do just about anything if I work hard at it, this is one of those things that I feel like if I were going to outgrow it, I would have.
        I did actually use to take horseback riding lessons, when I was.. 8-10 I guess. It was kind of just the usual yank and crank horsemanship though, I can’t say I actually learned much about horse behavior or anything. But anyway, the only way I could learn a jump course was if my teacher walked the course and I followed her on my horse. Once it was in my muscle memory, I had it, just like that. But after only having it explained to me… clueless.
        I don’t feel like this is a problem though, just a difference in learning style. It makes learning physical things like building stuff or knitting or sewing or things like that very difficult/impossible to do from just looking at a book, but if I really want to learn something, there are always workshops and just plain old having a real live expert show me the ropes, which is how people used to learn in the olden days anyway.

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      8. Oooooooohh yes… Have that so bad it’s like I’m taking the piss. If camera phones and YouTube were a thing back when I made my few failed attempts at show-jumping all would be viral. Absolutely lost trying to get my brain around all that stuff going on within a small space – and they change each time that’s why I can’t do agility it’s like “OK got that.. got that… yep yep then you take that one no wait – YOU CHANGE IT??? WHY???”

        Going to beginner’s / fun agility class if there are any near you will definitely help though like you say – being there and physically walking around and getting used to the course and obstacles like that is the way forward. You should get a starter agility set or make your own and just practise with Bree in the garden I’m sure much of it must be how you and your dog bounce off and understand each other more than anything 😀

        Definitely don’t write it off as a non-starter though I’m a lost cause like you wouldn’t believe but you’re not I’m sure.

        Often wondered why more handlers in agility don’t often seem to physically call out the name of each obstacles to the dog rather than just give a physical direction with hands or arms – that’s what I’d have to do. Bit like I do with the flanking commands which isn’t technical or correct by any stretch it’s “THIS WAY!!! OVER THERE!!” and an outstretched arm cos I can’t get my head around the commands working to the dog’s left and right properly. Understand it but in a trial or working environment I’d be too slow trying to think and give direction fast enough it’s like when Forrest Gump is on the boat and getting yelled at to take a left and has to physically point “Left… LEFT!! This way”

        Not sure if there’s some rule or a reason why it doesn’t seem to be a standard thing with agility but I remember seeing this winning round by Tex (who looks IDENTICAL to Fleet I am not even kidding) His handler shouts “FRAME!!!” loudly at the start so I’m guessing it’s allowed on some level? Can’t make out what she says for the rest though she sounds like me just pointing and shouting and in the nicest way, she’s not the youngest nor quickest handler in the world but still won the Masters so presumably pointing and shouting worked for them.

        God Tex looks like Fleet it’s weird. Not just a bit like him – it is my FLEETY-BOI

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      9. In the online class I was taking, we were told to call out what we wanted the dog to do. I don’t remember the words I came up with, (we were told we could say anything as long as we were consistent about it,) but there was a different word for each thing along with the gesturing. I think it’s just a matter of preference. I would have a really hard time not shouting it out, I just sort of do it naturally. Any time we go walking I’m always calling out things like “this way” (I’m going in a different direction than you’re going/you’re headed a different way than me so you need to change directions,) “look look” (Hey can you look over here a sec so I can tell you something/hey look I brought the disc, let’s stop and play here,) “wait,” (pretty self-explanatory,) “here, all the way here,” (when I’ve called her and she’s come part way back then stopped to sniff,) or “right there,” (that treat I dropped for you that you didn’t see where it went, it’s right next to where I’m tapping my foot on the ground.) Not things I’ve taught per say, just phrases that just sort of came naturally and stuck and she figured out what they mean.
        I would love to take an agility class. Unfortunately I don’t have time to be driving all over creation to attend one, and the only one that’s close, I went on the trainer’s Facebook page and saw lots of pictures of unhappy looking dogs wearing all manner of shock/prong collars, and it’s also required to take the obedience there before doing the agility. Same with all other sports as well; they’re all 2 – 3 hours away, which, as I say… more time would be spent getting to and from the class than on the class itself in that case. One thing that seems pretty straightforward is flyball. I have thought about seeing if I can get some like-minded people to get together and start a team… perhaps we could get some instructional videos (I’ve heard there are some good ones) and help each other learn to play it. Maybe a good summer project.

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  4. Another year or so you’ll be like this lot with Bree strapped in with a harness on the front seat pouring you a brew and going “Come on then woman.. get a shift on and floor it”.

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