There is a ‘Word of the Day’ feature on my phone’s Dictionary App that pops up a random English word.
Today, the algorithm gods said: “Dyscalculiais“. Is that even English?
It’s a medical term for a learning disorder that affects a person’s ability to do math. It affects brain areas responsible for math- and number-related skills and understanding.
I was floored by this revelation, but also a tad skeptic.
A memory from a particular math lesson in my school days came up. An episode that thawed my very complicated relationship with math from pure torture and terrible grades to a likeable disposition with good grades.
I had never before attained ‘Average’ in math.
My high school had a progress evaluation system. Basically, exams and more exams: Opener, Mid and the Final Exams. The Openers’ served the biggest challenge.
A nasty jolt to slap us out of the holiday moods. This episode happened in Form Two, after the Easter holiday.
We started with the dreaded math paper. It’s a tough fifty-question paper rounding off to a hundred marks. I breeze through it with trepidation, like a pirate condemned to walk off the plank at sea.
I knew I would flunk it, and I did. What with much of the holiday reading novels and watching TV?
The results were out by the evening preps. As was custom with our math teacher, quite empathetic and insanely patient – he’d read the top and the lowest score, but not mention the names. Morale, I think.
Someone had punched in an incredible 98%, and the lowest came in at a partly 19%.
I didn’t know who led but I knew I the 19% was mine. But, for a minute there, we giggled in the back rows speculating on which idiot had probably scored 19%.
My desk mate had managed a 76%, and said he felt dumb. Really? Dumb with a 76%? What adjective would I use to describe my 19%?
I was pretty miserable.
Did I mention that our math teacher also doubled as our class teacher? He had absolute powers, first among them – to shuffle us around the class.
Who sat where, and with whom?
He announced that the top would be paired with the lowest scorer. Before I could say Abracadabra, I had moved from the back to the front row. It was the least favorite position. If you dozed off in the back row, most teachers would chuck a piece of chalk at you.
The front row? That’s within slapping distance!
Barely do we settle in, than the teacher unleashes the next shocker.
Henceforth, each pair would tackle math problems on the board. The top grade, would lead the lowest in a step-by-step tackle. What?
In the history of my schooling, I had never volunteered to work out a math problem on the board.
I had a problem, but, hey – a pirate has to walk the plank, right?
What followed was an agonizing few weeks, each a degree worse than the other.
I realized that I was ‘dragging’ my partner. She was kind, but I was fast wearing down her patience. Eventually, we worked out a system.
Each night, we’d use half an hour of preps going over the following day’s assigned math problems.
I started getting correct answers on the board. The kids would clap, for everyone – but the claps were louder for me. I was getting better in math!
Who could have thought it’s possible? My confidence grew, I grew bolder and opened up to math.
I’m eternally grateful to my math teacher and my tag-team partner. I have no clue where they are, or doing presently but I still feel indebted to them.
Besides math grades, they helped me develop a positive mindset towards tackling obstacles in life.
As we prepare to get back to class, do your kids struggle with math? Focus less on the mountain of homework and more on attitude.
Also, a conducive study environment, and especially not having to worry about the safety of their pocket money.
Take advantage of Co-opPay, a pre-paid Visa Card from Co-op Bank tailored for use by students.
With Co-opPay, a parent loads pocket money remotely, and access instant tracking of the spending.
The student can shop with the card at their canteen, malls – or, withdraw money at ATM’s. Besides, being safe and convenient, it attracts no extra charges.