Living with Dyscalculia

Krystal M. Chuon
3 min readSep 19, 2021
Photo by Antoine Dautry on Unsplash

I was always bad at math. I remember struggling as early as kindergarten. I found math confusing, frustrating, and wondered why my brain just couldn’t do math. Something wasn’t adding up.

On Tumblr, back when it was bustling and there was a constant stream of educational content, I often came across posts about learning disabilities and a term I had never heard of before — neurodivergent. According to Daivergent:

The term neurodivergent is used to describe a variety of conditions related to cognitive abilities, though more often people with these conditions prefer neurodiverse. It applies to conditions such as autism, dyslexia, dyscalculia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

I think seeing those posts made me read up on dyslexia and that’s probably how I found out about dyscalculia. As I read through the symptoms of dyscalculia, I was shocked at how many applied to me. I felt overwhelmed. For so long, I accepted the fact that I was just simply terrible at math. It never occurred to me that there could be more to it, that I could have a learning disability.

A few dyscalculia symptoms from that applies to me:

  • Too slow at mental math to figure totals, change due, tip, or tax
  • Difficulty keeping track of time, managing time and schedules, telling time on analog clock
  • Difficulty with directions, left-right confusion, N-S-E-W, navigation, or driving. Poor sense of direction. Lost easily.
  • Poor ability to “visualize or picture” the location of the numbers on the face of a clock, the geographical locations of states, countries, oceans, streets, etc.
  • Difficulty with dance step sequences, muscle memory, sports moves
  • Experience anxiety during math tasks
  • Use fingers to count. Loses track when counting.

Throughout the years, I trained my brain to develop coping skills that made it slightly easier for me to function. This is how I eventually learned to read an analog clock. And while it’s a huge relief I no longer have to take math classes (the day I passed my final math class — statistics — with a “C” was one of the most joyous days of my life), I still struggle with math in the everyday world. I still get embarrassed when I can’t do what neurotypicals (defined as “individuals who display typical intellectual and cognitive development”) deem as “easy” math.

Dyscalculia is a life long learning disability that affects many aspects of my life, I cannot simply get rid of it, but it is treatable. At the time I discovered dyscalculia, I had sought out resources and how I could get properly evaluated even though I was now a full-grown adult and no longer in school. It didn’t lead up to much then, but I’m still interested in finding available resources to me because adult dyscalculia is still very much a struggle. It affects your work, life goals (career, educational, etc.), daily life, and more.

Finding out I’m neurodiverse and coming to terms with my learning disability brought me comfort. It made all those years of confusion and frustration make sense. I also felt less lonely knowing so many others out there share my struggles. I’m more kinder on myself when I “can’t math” in a given moment and take my time instead of quickly giving up. There’s still a low awareness of dyscalculia, but I hope in due time, it’ll be as widely known as other learning disabilities such as dyslexia so that those like me can get diagnosed early and provided the proper assistance in overcoming challenges to excel in life.