Being not so great at mental arithmetic is pretty common these days, and it’s probably the calculators fault. (Or at least that’s what my parents told me as I was growing up.) So the calculator was only allowed to be used when checking calculations after you had finished. Making sure you had the right number as your answer. My parents believed that the calculator had been as bad for that part of our brains, as the car had for our legs. Humans were allowing machines to do the hard work for them. Seeing as I have never been athletic, I’m a big fan of the car. I opted to engage my brain more so I could not be labelled as completely lazy.
Being taught to enjoy mathematics.
Even as a young child I took to arithmetic pretty well. If my Mum gave my sister and I some change to buy ice creams at the beach, my older sister would pass the coins to me once she thought we were out of sight. She was 3 years older than me, and I couldn’t even reach the window to pass the money to the person in the ice cream van. But she knew I was better at adding up the cost and subtracting that from the money we had. If she was given a £5 note I was defunct, as she knew they would use the till to work it out and she only had to take the change that they gave her.
I’ll admit it, I enjoyed this. It’s unusual that as that stage, when 3 years is a significant age gap that the younger sibling is quicker with mental agility. And I knew it. Yes that probably made me a brat, but I was proud of myself.
Every weekend my parents would set us the same spelling and maths tests that they had devised. Although it was laborious at times, because I was often successful and beat my sister, I actually quite enjoyed them. I didn’t have to tell my parents I was good, as they could see the evidence themselves. And long journeys in the car would be peppered with quick fire multiplication questions. In a heart beat I would shout out the number with joy, enjoying seeing how fast I could be.
Sorry, wrong number.
So my relationship with figures was pretty good. Some people can be intimidated by them, but I was the opposite. After my brain injury, I had to accept that my arithmetic had been affected. Seeing as I couldn’t count backwards for a longtime I realised I would have to work on it. That’s OK, I had already seen that by regularly exercising my brain it could improve. Therefor I wasn’t immediately alarmed or deterred by this.
But something more complicated was happening. If someone read out a telephone phone, I would write it down wrong. I know we all do this from time to time, so again I tried to remain calm. What was even weirder though, if I have a number in mind, I could say something completely different. I may or may not notice. For example I could be searching for something to buy within a set budget say £30. Sometimes due to exchange rates or discounts items aren’t rounded to the nearest pound. So if I came across something labelled as £27.62 I might say £34.86, which makes it sound too expensive. But in my mind I understand it’s £27.62 and have no idea why I said something else.
What’s the time Mr Wolf? Not what you thought it was.
And this issue with identifying numbers goes further. For a while I kept getting confused about the time. It didn’t matter if I was looking at an analogue clock, or a digital one. I would still think I had read it as something only to end be confused how later on the present time would turn out to be hours earlier than what I had previously read. This became really difficult and I had to force myself to take more care over it. Instead of just accepting the number I thought I had read, I had to engage logic to see if that made sense. Like if I had seen the 6 O’clock news earlier it wouldn’t make sense if I thought I now read the time as half past 4.
Whilst in the modern world there are many tools to assist with mathematics and time, it’s still frustrating. Yes I can still get by fine, but I miss being that little kid in the back of the car. I wish it was as easily getting a new spark plug to make my spark bright again.