Sunday 6 October 2019

Nerd Church - Dyscalculia (Part 1: What Is Dyscalculia?)

I've mentioned in passing before now that I have a learning problem - condition, disability, whatever you wanna call it - called dyscalculia.

So I figured it was about time (ha, you'll see why that's a pun soon,) that I let you know what that entails, and why that means I struggle with a lot of things that most people find easy.

chaotic overlapping clock faces
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Disclaimer time: I am not a medical, educational, or neurological expert. I’m a Welsh chick with a blog.

So, what is dyscalculia?

In its simplest explanation, dyscalculia is the maths version of dyslexia.

It affects numeracy, rather than literacy, and also affects a lot of things related to mathematical ways of seeing the world that most people don't actually associate with maths.

Have I been diagnosed?

No. I've not been formally diagnosed with dyscalculia.

In the UK, you need to be diagnosed by an educational psychologist. If your school picks up on it, you usually get the diagnosis as part of the education system.

If your school doesn't pick up on it, and you leave school without a diagnosis, then you have to find an educational psychologist yourself.

A lot of these people don't provide dyscalculia diagnoses as part of the services they offer. If you find one who does, it's hundreds of pounds and a lot of hoops to jump through.

Basically - unless you can afford to spend a big chunk of time and money on getting a diagnosis, you won't get one as an adult.

I don't have the money to spend on something which is essentially a confirmation of what I already know.

How does dyscalculia affect me?

Everyone has a different experience of dyscalculia, but I find it impacts quite a few areas of my life, here's a few of the basics:


I struggle to tell the time.

On an analogue clock-face, I will most commonly read the hands the wrong way round - because I struggle to tell the difference between the length of the hands, and I sometimes see their mirror image.

Clocks with moving numbers
This is legit. what a lot of clocks look like to me. If the hands moved it would be the perfect illustration. I had to check the gif tags to make sure it was supposed to be weird.

Via Giphy

I will also read the numbers incorrectly - so I might think the 3 is where the 9 is, or the 5 is where the 7 is, etc.

A lot of the time the hands move around as I'm looking at them - as do the numbers. Sometimes, to stop the hands from moving I use my arms to 'fix' the position in my head by physically mimicking their position. It looks weird, but I don't care.

I struggle generally with measuring time and planning how much time something will take. I mis-count the number of minutes I have until a certain time a lot.


My sense of direction is almost non-existent. I can look at a route I've travelled several times before and not have a clue where I am.

If things have altered since the last time I saw a place, I often struggle to remember where I am.

Left and right require a lot of conscious thought. I struggle to figure out which ways arrows are pointing because they flip from one side to the other.

My landmarks aren't like other people's landmarks, so they get frustrated when they're trying to give me directions and I'm like - 'I know you turn by the tree...'

I can't always remember how places connect. So I know what a place looks like, and what a place near to it looks like, but not how you get from one to the other.


I struggle with a lot of financial concepts. As in, I still don't get how banks give you interest on savings accounts.

Like, objectively, I know that's it gets invested and blah-blah-blah, but my brain's just there like, 'why are they giving me free money?'

Adding amounts of money together is difficult. Percentages suck.

I can count a handful of change 5 times, and come up with 6 different totals (yes, 6, not 5.)

I find it a lot easier to deal with actual cash than with numbers on the page though - at least I know it's physical and I can just keep counting 'til it makes some sense!

I put the wrong pin number in a lot and end up locking myself out of my bank account. Even when I remember the correct numbers, I read the wrong numbers on the keypad because they switch positions.

Other Stuff

Day to day?

I struggle to read grids or tables.

I copy telephone numbers or security codes wrong.

I struggle to set the washing machine.

I write the answers in the wrong crossword boxes.

Captcha codes which rely on numbers alone are my enemy. Half the time I can't even see the number, the other half I type it in wrong.

If you use Captchas on your website PLEASE try to make them accessible!

Usually it's an annoyance, sometimes it's a big problem. I roll with the punches.

It really doesn't help that my Anxiety picks up on pretty much all of this stuff and makes it harder to cope with.

But - if you're in the same boat, you can cope.

Yes, it's difficult. But you can do it, I promise.

Give yourself enough time, allow yourself to make mistakes. Check things through when you're done, or get someone else to check them through for you.

I run my own business. I struggle with quoting prices, writing invoices, etc., but I do them. I have to accept that it takes me longer than it would other people.

And yes, I've made mistakes - it sucks, but you pick yourself up, ok? Ok.

I got a B in my GCSE Maths, mainly by working my goddamn a** off and marching to my own goddamned beat in terms of note-making and problem-solving.

Sometimes I have to use different methods. Teachers don't always take kindly to that, but as long as it works, f**k 'em.

I could've taken A-level Maths if I wanted to! I had the GCSE grade I needed. (I didn't want to, oddly enough!)

My point is this: sh**'s gonna try to stop you. But you're no less capable than anyone else.

In Part 2 I'm going to give a real-world example of struggling with dyscalculia with something that most people find easy but for me is a military operation - catching a train!

Had you heard of dyscalculia?
Talk to me! 😊💬

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Last updated: 27th Dec 2019


  1. I’ve never heard of dyscalculia before. Thanks for shedding some light on it, Cee! And great job on getting a B in math! Math has never been my strong suit so that is a huge accomplishment to me!

    1. It was a *massive* accomplishment to me! Especially since it's *so* hard to get a job here without at least a C in GSCE Maths (and English, too, but I was always good at that!) :)

  2. I'd vaguely heard of dyscalculia before, but I had no idea it affected telling time. I didn't learn to read analogue clocks until I was a teenager and was always embarrassed about that. It's so nice to hear others had the same problem.

    1. Clocks. Argh.

      I am forever reading the wrong time. And more than once, I've looked back at a drawing of a clock-face I've done and I'm like... why tf did I draw 4 hands?! I don't *remember* drawing four hands!

      I get the embarrassment. When I was a teenager, a teacher asked me what the time was and I read the hands backwards... argh, it's still so cringe to think about! XD Plus, when they were trying to teach us times in Spanish and Welsh, they're like 'listen to this sentence and draw the time on the clock!' and I'm like... 'oh sh**!'


Comments? I love comments! Talk to me nerdlets!