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Do you tell people that you have dyscalculia?





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I am so angry and so scared
missbianca
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Posted on October 09 2010 11:13 AM
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So... I'm self-diagnosed. But I pretty much fit the bill. I want to get tested someday, but if it costs money, it's money I don't have. I don't have a job.

I struggle with basic math. I don't trust my brain to do something as simple as make change. Calculators barely help because I make stupid mistakes. I always have to have all my money counted out exactly before I get to the counter, because if I have to do it under pressure, I mess up. I can't do mental math at all. I can't hold calculations or numbers in my head for more than a few seconds. I love to bake, but I have to practically tie the recipe to my face or I'll forget a measurement within seconds of reading it. I can't convert imperial to metric or vice-versa. Fractions are all but completely lost on me. I don't know how many cups are in a gallon, and I probably never will. It takes me ages to read an analog clock. I struggle with estimating distances, so I HATE driving. My lack of spatial reasoning interferes with my favorite activity, which is drawing. My accounting class made me cry. Every math class I ever had made me cry, a lot. I have probably cried over math more than I've cried over anything else.

If I didn't live in a state that's free of sales tax, I would probably never even go shopping. I was lost trying to shop in Canada. I don't understand why they can't mark the REAL price of an item when there's a sales tax. It would just be good manners.

I had really really good language skills as a kid. I picked up reading and writing before I even entered kindergarten. So my crappy public school decided to label me as TAG (Talented and Gifted) and throw me in advanced classes. They put me in accelerated math as well as accelerated reading. If I were to ever find the person that made the decision to put me in advanced math, their end would be swift but gruesome.

Suddenly I was sick, all the time. It was the anxiety. I always had a stomach ache. Always. I hated my math class so much. I was trying to miss school or go to the nurse's office all the time just to get out of it. I was so nervous about those math classes that I was just sick, always. I was a skinny little waif.

"Ask for help if you need it," they said. But adults never meant that. When I asked for help they would just act disappointed in me, like I'd failed them somehow by not grasping these abstract concepts they were throwing in my face way too early.

I was never allowed to use the strategies that worked for me. I wasn't allowed to count on my fingers. I wasn't allowed to draw. I wasn't allowed to look at a number line. Because using the strategy that WORKS and gets the right answer is totally lame, right? You're supposed to use the one that makes you look the smartest. At least, according to all my teachers.

I cried a lot. Never in school, but always at home. Trying to get me to do my math homework was like trying to bathe a cat. I cried and screamed and threw tantrums every night.

I managed to headbutt and stomach-ache my way through math classes until the fifth grade, when I had a truly brilliant teacher who recognized that I was struggling. She put me back in a level of math I SHOULD have been in and it helped so much. I thrived that year. I felt like I was learning things.

Then in sixth grade I was back in the advanced class again, and struggling again. I floundered all the way to 8th grade, where I ended up in Algebra I Theory. That was the wave that drowned me. I couldn't do it anymore. I went to my counselor and spilled everything. I told him I've never been good at math, I never should have been in the advanced classes, and that I desperately needed extra help. And you know what he told me? Oh, it's a classic line. You've all heard it.

"Don't worry. You can do it if you just try."

I left his office crying.

I recently sent that stain on humanity a long angry letter detailing what came to pass after that: I flunked the class, then I flunked another class, and then I finally managed to threaten my high school counselor into letting me into a remedial class, where I learned some things, but was kicked out of the lab period that would have solidified it for being TOO SMART.

Yep. I'm so smart. I was always the "smart kid." I was always the one that teachers made into their personal assistant. Because I never got in trouble, because I always did my homework, because I maintained a pulse and an IQ above room temperature, I was obviously just too good to ever, ever require any help.

Apparently, you have to misbehave before you have a problem. People who pay attention and behave can't possibly have learning disorders, oh no! That would go against our stereotypes!

I was so beaten down, so nervous and scared of standing up for myself, and so afraid of being a disappointment, that I didn't speak up. If I could do it all again, I would go back and throw those tantrums IN CLASS until I got tested and got some help. Because in the USA's educational system, it's the only way to get any attention.

I'm really bitter about my whole experience. I just started college two weeks ago, and I don't have a math class right now, but I'm not looking forward to taking it. I'm going to see if my college has any resources so I can actually get tested for dyscalculia.

In the meantime, I will never, ever vote or donate to support my local school district again, because they caused me so much pain and anguish over the years, and not just with math.

I'm very, very scared about entering the workforce. I know I can't do a cashier job. I know I'd collapse in tears on the first day. Possibly after the first customer. If someone ever short-changed me, I'd never know. The job market in my area is terrible (my boyfriend has been looking for two years now) so I don't have much freedom of choice even if, by some miracle, I do manage to snag one. And is there really a job that doesn't involve math? It's inescapable.

I'm so scared, guys. I just needed to get that out. I have a lot of pent-up rage and frustration from years of this bullcrap. I just need to not feel so alone. And if anyone has any tips for coping with those little day-to-day things, I'd appreciate them... because it would be nice to have a job and buy things.
 
justfoundout
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Posted on October 09 2010 12:13 PM
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10/10/10
Hi missbianca,
I really enjoyed your story. It was very entertaining and contained many of the same tribulations of others on this forum, but with your own special flair for telling it. I'm just like you for forgetting a number seconds after looking at it. I can't even get 'forum member's' names right, here on this forum, when they put a three or four digit number in it. (Why do people on a dyscalculia forum put numbers in their names?) So, sorry about those 'gifted' math classes. I believe that CheshireKat got put into those, too. She'll be along later. I could read when I was 'five', like you. I'm much older than you, so back when I was in school, there may have been 'remedial' math classes, but I never heard of them. And dyscalculia wasn't recognized as a 'disability' back then. So, if you were dyscalculic, 'too bad' for you.

I don't know what State you're in, but try to find your State's Disability Agency. In Texas this is DARS (Department of Disability Rehabilitative Services). With a poor work history (that's me!) and poverty (that's me too!) I got tested for free. See you later. - jus'
 
CheshireKat
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Posted on October 09 2010 02:24 PM
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Hey Bianca, I'm Kat, welcome to the forum!

Jus is right, like you I was also tagged as Gifted in kindergarten and put on track for all upper-level classes... eventually. But fortunately for me, there was one big difference between our stories - my kindergarten and first grade teachers DID recognize that my math skills were below where they needed to be. We had blended-age classes in 1st and 2nd grade in my elementary school, so instead of having "1st grade math" and "2nd grade math" groups, we had "uppers" and "lowers" which you were divided into based on your mathematical ability, not your age/grade level. So I was in the lowers group both years, which went at a slower pace than the uppers group, and I did alright there.

But unfortunately when I entered 3rd grade we no longer had blended classrooms, and we all got taught the same math at the same pace, and that is when I fell behind and stayed behind. I was in Gifted throughout all of elementary and middle school, and was always in the upper-level reading and writing groups (those were still divided), but I had a lot of difficulty with my math classes. It did not help that one year my Gifted class started half-way through my math class... I was, of course, elated to skip part of math to go to Gifted, but it certainly didn't help my math skills any in the long-run!

In middle school we stopped having divided groups, and everyone learned at the same pace again, until 8th grade. Because I went to a K-12 school, kids in the gifted program had the opportunity to take an aptitude test and if you scored high enough, you could take high school level math and Spanish classes. I placed out of my gifted class and into the Spanish 1 Honors class... and don't ask me how I did it, but I also managed to test out of 8th grade math and into Algebra 1 Honors.

So that began my saga of being tracked into upper-level math classes that I could not handle. Even though I was not doing well in the classes, struggled more than anyone else in my classes, needed the most individual help, and STILL wasn't understanding the material, I was never able to get "off" the Honors track for math. The reason was two-fold - firstly, my teachers kept tracking me into the Honors level classes for the next year (e.g. my Algebra 1 Honors teacher had to make a list for the administration of which kids should go into Geometry Honors, and which should go into just regular Geometry).

The other half of the reason was because of the way the school schedule was set up: if you were taking Honors/AP English, Honors/AP science classes, and Honors/AP history classes, guess what? Only Honors math classes would fit into those left-over slots in your schedule. They set it up that way because they assumed that kids who were going to sign up for an honors or AP class were probably going to sign up for ALL honors/AP classes, so they set up the schedule so that a person could feasibly take all of those classes if they wanted to. That was mostly true for me, because I did want to take all honors and AP level English, science, and history classes... just not math! But I had to anyway, because that was all that fit.

So anyway, that's my saga of being shuffled from advanced math class to advanced math class that I did not want to and was not prepared to take. I ended up taking Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Analytic Geometry, and Trigonometry, all at the Honors level, by the time I graduated high school. I passed all of them, but barely.

Now I am in college, and so far have failed 2 math classes and had to retake them. Fortunately I have done much better in both classes the second time around. Pre-Calculus I failed the first time and got an A the second time. Trigonometry I got a D+ in the first time (needed a minimum of C for it to count for my major, though) and I have an A in it right now, not quite 1/2 way into the semester. I am also taking Stats 1 right now, and have to take Stats 2 next semester, and then I'll be done with math forever!!! Well, math classes, anyway. Smile

I would strongly encourage you to call up your school's department of student disabilities and talk to them about what's going on. Tell them you think you have a learning disability but haven't ever been tested, and you don't know how to go about doing that. Some schools will test you "in house" but others won't, they require you to go to an outside professional and be tested. I wasn't diagnosed until college, I did exactly what I just told you to do - I called up the DRC and said, "Hi, my name is ______, and I think I have a learning disability. I don't know how to get tested, can you help me?" The woman referred me to a list of educational psychologists in our area who could perform testing, I picked one, got tested, and it was some of the best money I've ever spent.

Once you get diagnosed, you can get accommodations. Accommodations can be the difference between getting your degree and not getting your degree, literally. My accommodations include unrestricted use of a 4-function calculator, extended time on tests (1.5x... meaning if it was a 50 minute test, I get 75 minutes), testing in a distraction-reduced environment, etc. They are very helpful for me, and in college-level math you really need all the help you can get.

Anyway, I've gone on for way too long. Again, welcome, and I hope you find the forum helpful!
"The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings." - Eric Hoffer
 
RottieWoman
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Posted on October 09 2010 04:27 PM
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hello missbianca! I struggle with many of the same things - some of the basic math, cups in a gallon, distances etc. I don't know how to use a rule and always found them very confusing. "such-and-such feet" means nothing to me. i always read and wrote well and was in the higher percentiles on tests and in the certain levels in reading groups in elementary school, but my math was dismal and it was always "try harder" , "doesn't show interest" "not good at math".

In high school during a geometry class meeting between my geo teacher, my mom, guidance counselor and myself, I burst into tears because not only didn't I get it, I was really at a loss as to explain that I didn't get it. I tend to think in pictures and had pull-out speech therapy for very delayed speech and language issues; speech is not my best mode. So after that session, I was put in counseling for "math anxiety" - which by that time, it certainly was true, I did have "math anxiety". But that wasn't itself the issue. Since I read well and had no disruptive behaviors, the math LD was never caught.

I was diagnosed in college after continually failing remedial college math. The diagnosis did allow me many accommodations that helped me to graduate from college. For me, it did get easier as time went on but I still do have difficulty. My husband helps with bank things and topics relating to finding things/distances/maps. I tell folks I have LD because for me, there's no shame in it and my telling may give people I interact with a chance to be more patient with me. They still may not be. But how they react is their problem. I've had issues with jobs but I guess I just keep trying. But I understand how it can be such a scary and disheartening thing. Hope you stay on here and can come to see that you aren't alone!
Smile
Edited by RottieWoman on October 09 2010 04:32 PM
 
Kestrel6
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Posted on October 09 2010 10:17 PM
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Right there with ya, kid! "You do so well in English, why can't you do math?" (wrong side of the brain, Stupid!) and oh gods yes, the old "you could do it if you'd just TRY" just makes you want to strangle 'em. Angry

Deep breath and relax; you're among friends here. We've been there, done that, and gnawed a hole in the T-shirt Wink Browse the forum; there are any number of solutions and coping mechanisms you can adapt to yourself. We'll help.
Blessed are the PURR in heart!
 
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Arwen Evenstar
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Posted on October 10 2010 06:24 AM
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Hiya, missbianca!

I feel you with being the smart kid who was abysmal in math. I too was terrified of c ashier jobs and..well, any jobs that had math in them. I've had several panick attacks over it...yea, not pleasant.

However, maybe when you graduate look for jobs in journalism or writing? My current gig involves a LOT of writing and internet promotion, so it's a better environment than previous jobs.

If you're looking for part-time jobs, look for working in an animal shelter, dance studio, freelance writing or maybe even an English tutor. They don't require a lot of math..I'd really focus on more artst jobs, if you can. They're hider to find, but not as stressful for us.

But welcome to the forums, and I hope you can get tested. Good luck!
 
missbianca
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Posted on October 10 2010 07:36 PM
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Ginormous post in which I respond to everyone... Pfft

justfoundout- Glad you enjoyed. Blah, well, I guess people's difficulties with numbers vary. I don't struggle much with telephone numbers or locker combinations. And when I do understand a math concept... I understand it well. I used to be able to explain long division to my classmates all the time. I was just slower at it.
Thanks for the advice, I will look into it!

Kat - Hi there!
Honors classes... ouch. I know that pain, too. They put me in Honors Geometry and that was when I finally got pissed off enough to go yell at my counselor. I had a D all year and my teacher tried to convince me that I was "doing great."

Oh, and the testing... that's always weird. I always tested really high on the state math tests, because apparently multiple choice = Bianca becomes a supergenius. A lot of TAG people seem to have the same problem. So um, this is why I don't believe in state testing and think we should stop wasting money on it. It means absolutely nothing.

I'm actually secretly a little excited (in a weird way) about college math classes because at my college, they seem to actually care if you succeed... which will help. Once I gather the courage to call, I'll see what I can do.

RottieWoman - Thanks!
It's good to have someone understanding in your life that can help you, too. My boyfriend is always very helpful when it comes to calculating tips and adding up prices at the store and so on. And he's not condescending about it like most people.

Kestrel - Ooooh yes. We need to do something to dispel the notion that skill in one area = skill in all areas. I don't know why this mentality is so common! It's like, do you expect EMTs to fight fires and solve murder cases? No? Then bugger off!
Thanks for the welcome, I will look around the forum more.

Arwen - Actually, my goal is an artist job. I'd like to do comics and illustration. I'm taking art classes at my college. It's my passion, but even here, my math-related problems are sort of interfering... I'm not good with perspective. Most people who go into an art class without any previous skills or interest are good at perspective drawing because it's basically mathematical, but... my brain doesn't work that way. I'm determined to get it though.

I will definitely look into animal shelter jobs or something. I've actually thought about that before.
Edited by missbianca on October 10 2010 07:37 PM
 
Forever
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Posted on October 10 2010 08:00 PM
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missbianca, I was so moved of Ur story. Really, I was.
What can I say - here, U never won't be alone.

And I know this sympthoms - u are smart, one of the best, but math is huge obstacle.
 
CheshireKat
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Posted on October 11 2010 12:58 AM
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Bianca - I know what you mean about acing standardized tests in math. In Florida we had to take the FCAT every year, 3rd through 11th grade (it was only through 10th grade when I was in high school, they have since expanded it another year). Every single year I scored at least a 4 on the Math section, and most years got a 5 (the maximum score is 5). I, of course, always got a 5 in the Reading section. The FCAT also used to offer a Norm Referenced section of the test, which they don't anymore, and it gave you a percentile score of how you compare against all other students in the state taking the FCAT. Every year I scored at least in the 90th percentile in Math, often higher. I find that mildly terrifying... if I am doing better than 90% of Florida students in math, that does not speak well for the math skills of the rest of the state's students!!
"The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings." - Eric Hoffer
 
justfoundout
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Posted on October 11 2010 02:50 AM
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10/10/10
A couple of years before I embarked on my Paralegal Studies, I went to the college to see if I might qualify for their nursing program. I was sent to the Testing Center for a math test. I felt a little embarrassed, as I knew that I 'wasn't good at math'. They scored my test right away. The counselor who talked to me told me that I'd passed the math required for being accepted into the Nursing program. (I might have only been asking about the LVN program.) Then I 'apologized' that my math wasn't good, mentioning that I hadn't done any math in the past ten years. But, she surprised me, saying that my math score was actually higher than most applicants.

If there was any 'algebra' on that test, it was probably small numbers, in which case I can sometimes 'visualize' the proportions and answer the question. Anyway, my point is, of course, that (lol, just like Kat) if my math score was 'higher than most applicants', we are also in trouble here in Texas. ;) - jus'
Edited by justfoundout on October 11 2010 02:57 AM
 
Arwen Evenstar
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Posted on October 11 2010 03:31 AM
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MissBianca-yes, I can tell you from experience that art school is hellish for us dyscalculics. It's ALL about measuring and proportion, not about true art and creativity (I went to Parsons School of Design for one semester...dropped out after and transferred to another school).

As an English major, I was much happier. But what about working as an art teacher in a school? Or teaching art lessons at a studio? That could work too.

And animal shelters are a nice way to volunteer/help out...I often volunteer with pet adoptions and I like knowing I tried to make a difference in their lives.
 
missbianca
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Posted on October 11 2010 04:08 PM
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Forever - Thanks, yeah, it's always been this way. Made me doubt my own sanity for a long time.

Kat - That's why I just disregard state test results entirely. It does little but measure one's ability to take multiple choice tests. Those things are not designed to actually be challenging, which CAN be done with multiple choice-- I should know from my AP Lit class, hoo boy! Too bad our entire educational system is based around those stupid things.

Arwen - I'm going to give it a shot anyway, because it's the only thing I really WANT to do and have motivation to do.. I like writing, but I wouldn't do it for a living if you paid me, haha... my dream is to draw comic books! Art teacher is a possibility but then I'd still have to figure grades... Pfft

I looooove animals. I should see if the shelter here needs any volunteers. Even if it's not paid, a little job experience would be nice...
 
Arwen Evenstar
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Posted on October 12 2010 04:12 AM
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Good luck MissBianca! If it's what you're passionate about, then go for it and damn the dyscalculia. If you get help, I'm sure you'll be able to make it. I know what it's like to want to pursue your passions, so I say give it your best. ^_^

Yea, volunteering at a shelter would be excellent job experience and you never know, you might be able to network with people!
 
RottieWoman
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Posted on October 12 2010 01:15 PM
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missbianca,

that's great about volunteering at the shelter! I'm a dog trainer and have volunteered extensively in shelters, especially during high school and college. For some years I hadn't volunteered as I'm working toward dog trainer certification and have three dogs myself, but recently returned to volunteering at a shelter. Often shelters and humane societies have a very small staff and huge core of volunteers that they really depend on.
The specific group of volunteers I'm part of at the shelter know I have LD and am hoh and are pretty patient with me as the LD does impact me there although I'm not doing anything mathematically. But during the volunteer orientation since were all together in a circle I flat out told them because safety is a big part of doing things at the shelter and I thought people needed to know.
 
squeakymonster
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Posted on November 03 2010 03:37 AM
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Hey bianca! I'm a music education major. I'm also a self-diagnosed dyscalculic, but I'm in the process of looking to get tested (not as easy as it sounds if you're a poor college kid). Those of us that want to be teachers have an extra hard battle ahead of us to even get INTO an education program, thanks to this little devil known as a basic skills test. No matter what subject you want to teach, you still have to know algebra, geometry, and geometry. I've yet to actually take it, it's wildly expensive, and I'm scared to death to spend that much money on it until I know that I can pass all the sections, especially the math section. On the other hand, hey, we're just like everyone else, and quite frankly, I want this too much to be scared off just because some idiot out there thinks that I have to be good at math to be a good teacher.
I'm NOT lost, I'm just taking the scenic rout!
 
justfoundout
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Posted on November 03 2010 02:18 PM
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11/3/10
Dear Squeaky,
Aiming to be a Music Education Major is really 'aiming high' for a dyscalculic. I took just Introductory and even that was challenging. Excuse me please, for what I'm about to say,... no it's not about 'music',... I really like reading your posts, but the 'animation' going on with your cute little 'music stand avatar' is extremely distracting to me. I have to stop after almost every line in your post to 'regroup' my thoughts to make any sense out of what you've written, all due to the 'movement' over there in your little avatar. Would you mind turning off the animation? I'm sorry to bother you with this. - jus'
 
squeakymonster
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Posted on November 03 2010 04:07 PM
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Jus': No problem, profile pic has been changed. When I loaded the last one, I had no idea that it would do that. When I watched it, I couldn't handle it either. Pfft If this one does anything, I'm going to be rather shocked.

As far as taking music as a major, it's challenging, yes. I have to work at it harder than the rest of the people in my classes, but so far, I've been alright. I've had to take some classes on learning different instruments, and have been able to pull it off. My violin prof. has worked extra hard with me, and as long as I'm willing to do my best, she's willing to help me with my goals. If it weren't for her, I'd most likely have to change my major. I didn't sign up for an easy major, and I know that, I also know I'm most likely going to take longer to get through the program than most would, but it's something I've wanted for a long time. No matter what they diagnose me with, this is something I want and I'm not going to let the way my brain is wired interfere with my dreams, especially when who knows, maybe I'll be able to help someone better understand music because the way I process and understand music is a little different than everyone else's (yeah, I've noticed my prof's look at me funny when I'm doing something to figure out what I'm doing and it's not the way they'd do it).
I'm NOT lost, I'm just taking the scenic rout!
 
RebeccaFlys
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Posted on November 17 2010 06:41 PM
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You know what? At least we aren't boring. I mean, how cool is it to see the shock on someone's face when you tell them you have a genius level IQ AND a learning disability?

Lol, a few years ago, I got reading glasses... and they're my little crutch. If I panic because of a clock, I say "man it stinks when your vision starts to go, can you see what time it is?" If I needed a second to think, you got it, I dug for my glasses.

People always laughed and said kind things like "oh I remember when my eyes started to go, lol makes ya feel old"

But that worked long enough for me to THINK...

I worked as a bank teller for several years. My mom got me into it. Can you believe that, of all people to encourage me to do ANYTHING that was related to numbers? The interesting thing was, I managed it. You would be surprised how easy it is to say to a boss or co-worker, "I need a moment to review this," or even to a customer, "I'll be right back with you" and go to another counter to do my figuring...

I still recall those years and get a sick feeling in my stomach. But working a cash register is nothing compared to bank tellering. You will get good at it with time. I actually used to have to "count my drawer down" to $100 when I was a cashier. OMG. I went to the toy store and bought a toy till with money to practice. I'm not kidding.

And once my mind memorized the number keys... like memorizing the keyboard to type, that really helped. Actually in 3rd grade they put me in a typing class, because they thought it would help me, and it did! I can't write my thoughts out with a pencil, but on a computer, voila! The same happened with the cash register for me. It took time, and practice but it happened. I couldn't do it RIGHT NOW, lol. But I managed it back in the day.
"But I punched it into the Tom Tom so we MUST be there."
 
Patricia
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Posted on November 17 2010 08:00 PM
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I hate handling money!!! I've never gotten used to it.

When I worked in a bar, the boss would give us a $20.00 bank, and we had to make our own change out of it. At the end of the night we just gave him his $20.00 back. I was always dismayed at how much of my own tips I'd given away by giving the customer incorrect change. And in a bar, the customer is always looking for ways to have more money for beer, so if I gave them the wrong change, that just gave them more money for more beer, didn't it?

And my mom wanted me to be an Accountant, because it's an "easy" job!!! Shock
 
RottieWoman
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Posted on November 18 2010 08:15 PM
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Patricia, while I don't HATE it, handling money/change is really not easy or automatic for me and can be very very hard. I understand what ya meanSmile
 
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