Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Bad at Math?

So, what's on your mind today, Traci?

Ooh, I think you might be sorry you asked that.

I just got back from a meeting at the school with our school psychologist: ie the man who has the job of deciding who needs extra help and accommodations with their learning.

My kid learns funny. She has these weird gaps in her knowledge and ability. When sharing these gaps with friends a couple of years ago, they suggested I have her assessed for a processing disorder with a tutor they knew, admired, and had worked with.

I did.

The tutor said, "Ah ha! Processing disorder! We can tutor for that." We tutored. My kid learned. All was well.

The tutor also said, "Her scores qualify her for a '504' should you think she needs one. A '504' will ensure she is allowed things like scratch paper to solve her problems on (for tests that don't have a lot of room for showing your work) and other accommodations like extra time to take state tests."

Bin full of frustration.
Today, while pursuing those accommodations (I want them in place because her school scores indicate to me that she is still struggling with one specific type of learning that could cause her problems as math becomes more complicated.)

I was told my tutor's opinion wasn't valid, and that my kid was probably just lazy.

Frankly, the law requires that he have a 504 meeting with me within 25 school days of my request no matter what his opinion is. He made it very clear that we could have the meeting but that he would not recommend a 504 or even further assessments at the meeting therefore it would all end there.

And this, my friends, is why everyone hates American Public Schools so much.

Now here's the rest of the story about my kid and why it might kind of apply to this blog: She's also gifted. She can read and write well above grade level in two languages. (She's in an immersion school language program so it's not THAT impressive.) For kicks and giggles she writes and illustrates her own little books and she writes and performs her own songs and plays. The psychologist said because she was so gifted in her language abilities, she could not have a processing disorder.

Books good.
BUT writing giftedness and dyscalculia go hand in hand. Only 3-4% of the population is ever diagnosed with dyscalculia, but something like 90% of all professional writers have it. (And...I have to say...if school psychologist all over the country are telling kids that they are just lazy, or just average when their giftedness in one area masks a serious problem with math, I would take the only 3-4% with a really big grain of salt.)

If you made it to this blog searching for "Bad at Math" would you post a comment telling us if you are a writer or if you student is a great reader/writer? And if you are a regular here because you are a writer (professional or armchair!) will you post a comment mentioning if you are also bad at math?

As I kid I did "fine." I was "average" at math until I made it to high school. And even there,  I understood what was being asked of me. But I was unable to perform it once I was facing a paper full of problems that needed to be solved. Once I got to college and we did all of our work on graph paper and with calculators, my failing grades immediately turned to straight A's. I want my child to bypass the "failing grades" part of the math experience and go straight to the "I both get it, and can prove it" experience.

Dyscalculia links and references:

What is Dyscalculia? http://www.ncld.org/types-learning-disabilities/dyscalculia/what-is-dyscalculia

Romance Writer Nell Dixon on Dyscalculia: http://nelldixonrw.blogspot.com/2011/02/dyscalculia-day-march-3rd.html

Bad at Math? http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/making-change/2011/oct/19/bad-math-you-may-have-dyscalculia/

By the way, the specific thing I have requested from our school district is a reassessment to see how my daughter has responded to the work we are doing and to see if she still qualifies for the 504. I'm not jumping the gun, or overreacting, as the psychologist suggested. I'm attempting to use the channels set up in our school district for these situations to make sure my child's educational needs are being met.


  1. First, shame on the school psychologist. Second, my experience mirrors your own. I did not like math. I did not do well in high school but I got straight A's in college. My wife is a much better and gifted writer than I am. She did not like math either and did just enough to graduate. I think your daughter will do very well. Hopefully, the school will admit their mistake.

  2. Thanks so much for commenting, Ken! I really appreciate it. I have a feeling she is going to make her mark on this world, with or without a 504, but wouldn't it have been brilliant back in the day, to have had a little extra help in high school math instead of just being treated like we were merely lazy, or stupid?

  3. I started writing a reply, but it got too long. Basically, it might work to ignore the psychologist's supposed authority and go straight to a doctor. Ask for a referral for a neuropsychological evaluation. In Alaska, at least, once you have a diagnosis from a neuropsych. eval., you've got your 504. I can give you more info. & share my story a little if you want to email me. McClainRG at aol dot com

  4. Thanks so much!! I've arranged for the tutor to reassess which will help us know what to do next. After that I will move forward with whatever we need to do next.

  5. I agree with speaking with your pediatrician. And consider a speech therapist? My son had his first ear infection at 10 weeks, fluid dampening his hearing until his first of 4 sets of ear tubes at 7 months. Failure to thrive due to repeated infections. Gained a pound at one week after the tubes (only newborns usually gain like that.)
    He was diagnosed with an auditory processing deficit after I brought it up. Can't sort out what of many sounds he is supposed to listen to.
    A speech therapist also gave me more insight to his abilities, saying he probably saw things very differently than I did. "House" to me was a static picture. To him doors were opening, people were going in and out, etc.

  6. Annette-How fascinating! I'm so interested in the way the brain works. I can definitely have them check her hearing, though I think because of her giftedness with language and ear for music that it is probably fine. But it's always good to look at the whole child to see what is going on. I bet everyday you look at your kiddo and praise God that he is well! I can't imagine how stressfull those early years were for you!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.