Using synesthesia to cope with dyscalculia?
My daughter’s been having a spot of trouble with her basic math skills. She’s gone backwards in her knowledge, forgetting some strategies and seemingly not understanding the new strategies. It’s a bit odd, because in terms of her reading, writing and spelling she’s way ahead of most of her classmates.What’s not so odd is that I had the same kind of trouble when I was her age. I always just thought I was horrible at math. And then I went to a workshop at the school and learned that perhaps at least some of the issue was with the way it was taught.
But there’s always more to the story, isn’t there?
As a bit of a lark, I typed “math dyslexia” into google and ended up on a dyscalculia page or seven. Dyscalculia involves difficulty in learning or comprehending mathematics.
I was especially intrigued by some of the “symptoms.” But not for my girl – for me!
- 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: You got it. I never know how much is in my trolley unless I use a calculator, and even then, I make many errors when adding things up on a calculator. I have completely messed up our budget more than once (I’m never sure exactly how I break it, but I do.) And I have frustrated both my father and my hubby when they were trying to explain financial things. It’s like I can’t get my head around it, no matter how hard I try.
- difficulty navigating maps – I’m not allowed to use maps unless it’s a GPS. That said, I have pretty good direction sense – I usually know where I am. If I’ve been there, I can direct you. But if I use a map, I’ll get you lost.
- mistaken recollection of names – I usually blame this on my synesthesia. Some names are the same colour, you know.
- difficulty differentiating between left and right – this one drives the hubby nuts. I have to stop, think (sometimes find the L when I hold up my hands, sometimes remember which one I write with) and then tell you. Interesting fact - I still refer to a turn across traffic as a “left hand turn” and a turn with traffic as a “right hand turn” just like I learned it in Canada despite the fact it is the complete opposite here in NZ. And despite the fact that I know it’s wrong.
- inability to visualise mentally – I assume they mean with math – and yep. I can’t hold the numbers in my head. Unless it’s basic addition (1-20) or basic multiplication (0 – 12 times tables) which I have memorised by colour, I have to write it down.
- Might do exceptionally well in a writing related field – Hmmm, I resemble that remark!
- along with, of course, difficulty with basic math – addition, subtraction, division, multiplication - If I don’t have the calculation memorised by colour, it’s not happening.
I’m also completely useless with mathematical formulas. (Did I mention I failed physics, despite being able to spout off all the theories correctly? It was applying the formulas that did me in! I’m also completely useless with calculus and statistics. Failed them too.) Makes me (and likely you, too!) really glad I never attempted biology or chemistry.
Did you notice those sections above that mention memorising ”by colour”? That’s where the synesthesia fits in. If I do have dyscalculia (maybe I don’t and it’s just my synesthesia playing havoc?) then I think I mitigated it during my school years with the synesthesia, using the colours to memorise the basic mathematic skills I needed. I changed the numbers and calculations to colour combinations. When I mess up the colours (it can happen. After all, 8 and 3 are the same colour.) I mess up the math.
Which brings me back to my girl. She doesn’t have synesthesia (that I know of), but she is clearly having trouble with math. And now that I know that there is such a thing as a math-specific learning disability (and that apparently it is genetically inheritable) perhaps I’ll be able to use some of the strategies they use for dyscalculia to help her, even if she doesn’t have it.