Six Out of Five People Can’t Do Math

Today I donned green eyeshadow and the sole green item in my closet in honor of what I thought was St. Patrick’s Day. After giving a co-worker a hard time about his lack of green attire, I was informed that I was 3 days early. Oopsie!

Back when I was Managing Editor for The UB Post I wrote an editorial regarding my newly-discovered but always-suspected learning disability involving math and all things number-related. So, in honor of my Pre-St. Paddy’s Day, I am reposting that editorial:

— For most people, the thought of math does not induce hyperventilating or the running of mascara. Not so for me…I may not be able to recite the Preamble to the Constitution from memory (I prefer South American politics, muchas gracias), but I consider myself an intelligent person. All that confidence, however, falls like a dress on prom night when faced with anything math related.

Home-schooled as a child, my mother loved teaching me math. She’d have this gleam of joy (or evil) in her eyes every morning as she stood by the dry-erase board and prepared the lesson. After an hour, her gleam was dulled, her face red as a chili pepper, and my eyes full of tears. I just didn’t get it. No matter how hard I tried, math just didn’t make sense. I could add a column of numbers and get a different result each time.

I took a class in college called Consumer Mathematics, learning how to balance a checkbook, percentages, etc. It was just like high school. The teacher would explain the problem and it would make sense in a way, but once I tried to apply it, something in my head would go haywire. After two weeks, I dropped the class.

My math skills have been a running joke and well-known fact with my friends. I would joke that I had math dyslexia. In reality, I felt stupid. How could something that seemed so easy be so difficult? Just trying to balance my checkbook would make me cry! No one else had trouble with math, so I just assumed I was dumb in that area and consoled myself with my verbal skills.

Despite my aversion to all things math, numbers still manage to find me wherever I hide. For example, I work in insurance where I am continually juggling figures. I have to handle billing accounts, take payments and conduct other monetary actions including balancing the daily deposit. When my co-worker did the daily deposit, it would take her five minutes to get the balance ready. Now that I do it, it takes 25 to 30 minutes—on the days it balances on the first try.

Recently, I found an article on about a mom trying to help her daughter with homework and being completely stumped by fifth-grade level math. The article mentioned a disability similar to dyslexia, called dyscalculia, which deals with numbers instead of words.

The National Center for Learning Disabilities website,, defines dyscalculia “as a term referring to a wide range of life-long learning disabilities involving math…[with] no single form…and difficulties [that] vary from person to person and affect people differently…”’s site provides a list of symptoms which I sent to my friends as vindication:

  • Inability to comprehend financial planning or budgeting, sometimes even at a basic level; for example, estimating the cost of the items in a shopping basket or balancing a checkbook
  • Problems differentiating between left and right
  • The condition may lead in extreme cases to a phobia of mathematics and mathematical devices

More symptoms were listed and I found myself nodding in agreement. At last I knew what was wrong with me. I wasn’t stupid or lazy; there was an actual reason why math frustrated me. Despite discovering my disability, math is no easier or appealing. Knowing what is wrong, however, makes me feel better. Now, if only for a solution…preferably one that does not require finding the value of ‘x.’ —


~ by pithycomments on March 14, 2008.

6 Responses to “Six Out of Five People Can’t Do Math”

  1. people can do math . . . it’s that people are just dependent on technology . . . that’s all even it’s an easy calculation to tip 15% for a food bill.

  2. […] fee to $7.32 for an 8-hour day for students, which adds up to around $1200 a year. (no worries, I didn’t do the math) Student loans and other forms of financial aid won’t cover this fee thanks to the […]

  3. I so relate to this. That story about you and your mom is exactly how me and my mom were! I just couldn’t do it. Balancing equations in chem class was literally impossible. I got a different answer every time!
    I work for LearningRx now, and I’ve never gone through the program, but you might think about cognitive skills training. It works for lots of people. Take a look:
    Good luck balancing that checkbook.

  4. […] Posted by janeonthemoor under Uncategorized   I just read a post by a DC is My Manhattan ( She is one of those people who can’t do math. Just like me! I can’t do math. The […]

  5. […] Blog Day you say?? Apparently it was the 4th annual Blog Day last Sunday. I had no clue  that I have even missed it until Monday when I saw that Maxie (thank you!!) gave me a shout out. Then on Tuesday my PRNewser Daily Feed from came in helpfully telling me that Blog Day was Sunday. (the actual headline said that “today” was Blog Day and linked to Sunday’s article about it, which made me feel better about getting dates mixed up). […]

  6. […] was cool and reminded me that marine biology would be cool to study if it weren’t for the math thing. After the first season  SeaQuest was forbidden and Pithy had to get creative. Enter the Wednesday […]

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