Struggling Students : Insights from a Dyslexic

July 25, 2016



    This is where I can offer nothing but my experience, as a child who struggled with a slight learning disability when it came to reading, writing, and numbers. Take what I say with a grain of salt, I'm not a professional educator, but I hope this may give you some insight into the mind of someone who has always struggled with mathematics, even after I conquered reading and writing well enough.

     I stumbled upon two great articles from a blog called, "Smart Classroom Management : simply effective tips and strategies" by Michael Linsin, (motivating students, and what difficult students really need). While reading about his methods I started realizing how much of a difference they would have made in my own struggles in the classroom as a child, as well as recognized the different teachers who made me rise to the challenge rather than throw in the towel. 

     Okay so, MATH. I am not good at it, and in my mind math is psychologically tied to struggle, self-doubt, fear, and anxiety. In all sincerity, it goes that deep for me. It is the thing that has caused me so much grief that the sight and sound of the word itself agitates me. It is the one thing in school that made me cry more than teasing or unrequited crushes. I was never more terrified during a test or grade results. 

     Why? Because I was bad at it, and I truly believed there was literally nothing I could do to get better. It wasn’t because I did not try. It wasn’t because I neglected my homework. On the contrary, I stayed up late at night, mentally exhausted and frustrated with myself. Oh there were times I thought I had finally understood Algebra and Geometry, I would hand in my test only to receive a C- or a “see me after class” written in red. I would talk to the teachers and they would say, “I don’t understand, you seem to do well enough in class until it’s time for the test.” They blamed it on test anxiety and let me take tests at a different time away from the “pressure”.


    I did not have test anxiety. I actually like taking tests. Outside the realm of math, I am an excellent test taker. I had anxiety because I knew I could only grasp mathematical concepts, but I was exceedingly terrible at executing these concepts with exact precision. Which is pretty much the point.

     My teachers decided I was dyslexic, and I probably am. I struggled with reading and writing well into the fourth grade until one-day phonics began to make more sense than individual letters, and it was like someone turned a key in my brain. Obviously, now I have no problem reading and writing, although as much as I do both of those things, I am still a very slow reader. The problems were similar to my struggle with math, only, I never really matured in math. 

     If math is anything, it is precise and exact. So if I saw a 9 and 6 or 3 E or 2 7 or Xx or p q or a u, trying to correctly translate what I was seeing was the first step. Once I translated it I would glance at the person next to me, who was already well past the first few problems. I would hope that I was seeing what was written and then attempt the problem. Chances were I had transposed a number or symbol somewhere down the page-length equation and had flubbed everything from that point on. 

     Then word-problems came into the curriculum, as they do. If the above is a picture of my mental distress when I attempt to translate symbols into something that has weight and value, you can imagine the panic and frustration of someone who already struggled to read. The time it takes to translate from Engl