Mathematical minds

I was laying in bed last night, thinking about my own personal math deficiencies. I blogged on my arithmetic difficulties on my other blog once. I couldn’t fall asleep last night and I really wanted to try and manipulate numbers in my head because I figured it would help the insomnia I get from time to time (more challenging than counting sheep and less thought provoking than thinking of things that stress me out – like my obsession/fear/paranoia of dying young). It’s been bothering me for some time that I don’t have the capacity for manipulating numbers in my head. I can do basic, single digit arithmetic, but can’t do complex number operations, have difficulty with more than one digit, and the numbers seem to evaporate. I have no number memory when I want to operate on them. Yet I can recall a lot of 10 digit telephone numbers and can recall my husbands SSN without much trouble (he can never remember mine and he’s the math genius). I also have a better sense of direction and I am deciding that I’m not a true dyscalculic, but I do have problems performing operations on numbers in my head. If I have an audience, such as when I try to calculate the tip, or figure out what change I ought to get back, I tend to freeze up. I’ve asked others to calculate the tip and have occasionally been shortchanged because I couldn’t calculate what I should have gotten while standing in line with a lot of people behind me (though often I’m left with a nagging suspicion that I should have gotten more than I actually had).

Here’s a quick test for Dyscalculia. I think I’ve ruled out for myself being a Dyscalculic (so much for thinking I had a name for my math deficiencies). And since it’s not that, I am still at a loss for what it really is (and how to correct it).

So, last night, I was trying to improve my mental math ability. I know I have difficulty with sequences of numbers and determine the relationship between them unless I’m a) looking at them and also writing trying out actual calculations between them and writing them down (otherwise I’d forget what I did while I’m trying to perform operations on the next number pair) or b) using a calculator if it’s not an easy calculation, then writing them down so I didn’t forget what that was.

I was thinking about this because I was slightly in awe of the mother who was coming up with sequences of numbers to challenge her 5 year old.

I’m embarrassed to say I couldn’t figure out the relationship of this one, even after I saw what the answer was

0, 1, 3, 6, 10, ___ (the answer? 15). Do you know why? it’s because the difference of the numbers are 1, 2, 3, 4, 5….

It really bothers me that I’m so challenged by such “simple” things that came easily to a 5 year old. Granted, this particular 5 year old seems to be exceptional in math, but still…I’m 38 and couldn’t figure it out within 5 minutes simply by looking at it, and she figured it out in 5 seconds.

It further bothers me that while I’m verbally proficient and can play all sorts of word games with my kids, I’ll never be able to promote number challenges such as these for them. I’d like to sharpen my mental math ability, but I fear it’s too little too late.

On top of it, I find incredible coincidences all the time regarding the things I’m really troubled by or simply interested in. The most recent post of the Eide Neurolearning blog is regarding Mathematical Minds. It’s pretty uncanny how I can be thinking of something, then within the next 24 hours, I find something provocative about the very topic that I’m contemplating.

I hope my three girls inherit their dad’s mathematical ability and not mine. It hasn’t stopped me from pursuing a science career, but it sure would be one less source of irritation to me if I could manipulate numbers in my head the way I want to and help my girls develop a proficiency in math.

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