Favorite Daughter Comes Out of the Closet

27 03 2008

. . .the math disability closet, that is, with her new blog diary posted direct from her college honors lounge today.

As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, words without end, amen.

For years, I’ve been telling people that I was – hmm, I believe the
phrase I used when I was middle-school-aged was “math retarded.”

My mom told me many times over the years, sometimes rather sharply, not to say that. She didn’t want other people to think of me that way, and she didn’t want me to think of myself that way. . .Turns out my original assessment of “math retarded” is probably closer to the truth. . .

Read her whole post when you can, because it lays out what she’s been through in her own words, from inside who she was born to be.

Then she wrote and posted a poem that made her mother cry:

“On Leaving a Book of Poems in the Math Building”

There is nothing quite so terrible
as losing a notebook of poems
in the math building.

I am dizzy, frantic, wondering
what horrors those numbers people
will enact on my scrawled characters.

They might translate them to binary,
or try to convert all of my metaphors to fractions
to see if they are truly equivalent.

They might grade them, disfigure their structure,
mark them in bright judgmental red,
or add the lines together and average out the vowels.

They are short-sighted, hungry beasts, eager for the universe
to give up all its secrets, now, and to show its work besides,
they spend their time trying to count the seeds in the center of a
rather than capture what a sunflower means.

They know the numbers which make up the Fibonacci Sequence,
but know not the delight in saying “Fibonacci,”
over and over, feeling it in your mouth, caressing it.

They have never tried to make “Fibonacci Sequence” an anagram,
they don’t know how difficult it is when there is no R,
Even if you make “equine bison,” which I did,
you still have an A, E, and three Cs left, an untidy remainder.

They might write them as decimals.




9 responses

27 03 2008
Not June Cleaver

I adore that poem!

My very wordly wise middle son probably has a math disability of some sort, but I’m not going to worry about it just yet. I prefer to think he’s just not ready yet.

27 03 2008

Thanks NotJC. And about waiting, been there, done that, good for you and middle son both!

And the odds still are that you are right. And if not, that will work out too. 🙂

27 03 2008

It is hard to see him struggle so when his two brothers could do math in their sleep! But you are right. Things will work out.

29 03 2008

Her little brother (Young Son) has no such challenge in math. It’s like night and day with them and numbers.

Mental math, patterns and all visual-spatial thinking come quite naturally to him. And he has a good mind for rapidly manipulating abstract contingencies without losing track of the parts or the process, whether in video games or real life, like choosing routes to drive somewhere. He had his own Russian chess mistress at age four or five because he was something of a prodigy; she wanted to put him in tournaments by the time he was five, here in our university town, but although he mentally understood chess notation he hadn’t the fine motor skills to write yet, so he couldn’t qualify to compete in that setting.

So we played with him, sometimes all day, and he’d play Lego chess on the computer after he wore us out. By the time he COULD write and tell time, etc, and could’ve competed, he’d pretty much “played out” his chess passion.

Not sure why I tell that story now except I’ve been thinking hard all week about the kids and how they’ve developed different interests and abilities over the years, and how even though we share so much as a family and are so happy, we each have our own unique um, “intellectual fingerprints”?

29 03 2008

Favorite Daughter could never play chess, come to think of it. Maybe schools should use that as an early diagnostic?

29 03 2008

A sympathetic homeschool dad just tipped me off to this :

Friday, March 28th 2008, 2:36 PM

If you see Kate Bosworth playing blackjack on a casino floor, rest assured she’s not counting cards. Bosworth, who stars in “21” as an MIT math whiz, adept at beating Vegas casinos with a simple counting system, is actually mathematically challenged.

“I will be the first to tell you every single person in this cast is awful at math,” the beauty laughed to the Daily News at a Cinema Society screening of the gambling movie. “[Co-star] Jim [Sturgess] clearly had to know more math for his scenes. But no, I could never count cards,” she emphatically stated. . .

27 04 2008
Hands Off the Hands-On in School Math?? « Cocking A Snook!

[…] Rapt regular readers will recall that in all those decades of debates or touted teaching tracks, nothing ever made math manipulable for Favorite Daughter. […]

12 05 2008
What We’ve Been Up To While Not Schooling « Cocking A Snook!

[…] last show after ten years at this studio — Favorite Daughter is all grown up and immersed in collegiate challenges, and Young Son is increasingly drawn to other styles of performance, especially those bagpipes […]

17 06 2011


Study Helps Pinpoint Math Disability

“. . .a sliver within the parietal lobe, at the top rear of the brain, that is associated with basic number processing.

Adults and children estimating the number of items in a set or comparing one number to another showed increased brain activity in that area of the parietal lobe.

Mr. Ansari, the principal investigator for the Numerical Cognition Laboratory at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada, found that people identified with dyscalculia showed much lower brain activation in the parietal lobe when identifying the magnitude of numbers, suggesting a deficiency in this basic processing.”

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