I was never good at math. I'm terrible at it, actually. I always struggled during math lessons in elementary school, with those grades always being the worst on my report cards. In middle and high school, math became synonymous with anxiety and failure. It felt like I had to work three times as hard as everyone else, only to make C's, D's and F's on my math tests. It was the subject that brought my GPA down, my ACT score down and made every day at school emotionally distressing. I didn't understand what made math so difficult for me.
It wasn't until I was 21-years-old that I was given an answer, a diagnosis: dyscalculia.
If you are unaware of what dyscalculia is, the short answer is that it is a neurodevelopment disorder that affects my ability to complete arithmetic. However, it doesn't stop there. The additional difficulties that come along with the learning disorder include, "[problems with] visualization; visual-spatial perception, processing and discrimination; counting; pattern recognition; sequential memory; working-memory for numbers; retrieval of learned facts and procedures; directional confusion; quantitative processing speed; kinesthetic sequences; and perception of time" (Link).
Essentially, basic life stuff is a struggle for me.
When I finally received my diagnosis, I was thrilled. I had a legitimate issue that was out of my control. This is probably a strange way to feel, but I was relieved. I always thought I was an idiot, but I'm not.
After the relief dissipated, though, the next emotion that hit me was anger. Why did it take 21 years of emotional distress, failing grades, dropping college math classes, wasted time and energy to get the answer?
The public school system failed me.
I don't blame my parents for not suspecting I had dyscalculia, how could they?
I blame the teachers who saw me struggling. I blame the fact that none of my teachers seemed to notice me fighting back tears as I stared down at my failing test grades. I blame that they could've taken one look at my report cards and saw that something was not adding up, but they didn't. Math was the only class that stood out that I could not do. I wasn't blowing off their class, not paying attention, or disregarding assignments. I was a good student and yet my grades still suffered. Nobody seemed to notice.
I blame the public school system for letting this go untreated.
I blame the public school system for disregarding students when they're obviously struggling.
Not just me, all of them.
I'm thankful that I finally have my answer, but I was deprived of the help that I so desperately needed in my younger years. I wasn't brave enough to step up and tell my teachers that I needed help. They probably would have brushed me off as a simple case of needing extra tutoring. My brain physically cannot do the math and no amount of tutoring was going to help me with that.
Spread the word. Dyscalculia is real.