Rock Maze
  • Neil

Numbers and Dyscalculia

When I was growing up I wasn't very good with numbers regardless of how much I needed them. I did get a sufficiently good result at my maths exam to eventually train as a teacher,but only just.

When I first started to teach I had to take a maths class a few times, thankfully the kids weren't the sharpest knives in the box, which was just as well.

But numbers seem to be increasingly a part of my blogging because numbers are an increasingly large part of my life. In fact, some numbers have become part of all our lives. We all have to listen to regular updates of infection rates, hospital admissions, the R number, stay 2 meters apart, people per 100,000 with Covid and on and on.

I now do the numbers that I need reasonably well, at least I had to at different times of my career. I had to be au fait with budgets and costings, establishment numbers, contract performance, staff liabilities, profits and losses, key performance indicators, and more. Thankfully I have an extremely efficient, financially aware, ex-banker to manage my financial portfolio. (I have to ask Tricia before I can spend anything).

The numbers that I regularly deal with now fall into a different set of categories. Numbers relating to dates and frequency of events. Numbers relating to measurements. Numbers relating to medication. Even GPS coordinates have snuck into my blog.

Take measuring, the language of most tradesmen. I’m of the generation that initially learnt imperial measurements. So I obviously know 4 inches is a “hand” (exclusively used for measuring horses); 6 foot is a fathom (exclusively used for measuring the depth of water); 22 feet, or a chain, is the distance between the bowling creases on a cricket pitch; 10 chains is a furlong and naturally we all know there’s 8 furlongs to a mile. But by the time I began my teaching career the country had adopted the metric system. A simpler system, or is it? Well yes it probably is. However there are still other measurements that are less numerical. An inch is roughly the length of the first joint of your thumb; a hand, the width of your palm without your thumb, 4 inches; a span is 7 inches, the width of your fully stretched fingers thumb tip to little finger tip; a cubit is the length of your elbow to your middle fingertip, 18 inches; a yard (36 inches, not an American term for garden) is the maximum distance you can make between your nose and fingertip; a pace is about 3 feet; a fathom, 6 foot, is middle fingertip to middle fingertip when your arms are stretched right out. Of course everyone is different but we’re all just about the same. (Did you stretch out your hand when you read the span bit?). As for me? With all the above knowledge I’m still, too often, a measure once cut twice sort of bloke.

I also have these numbers around my medication. Some of the pills I take are chronically expensive, and I’m worth every penny, but I still count up my 8 or 9 different sets of pills so I don’t end up bringing home pills I’ll never use. I already have a shoe box full!

Then there’s dates. I have all my chemo dates until Christmas, I have two walking dates, I have consultancy dates, blood test dates, post LD2 hair cut dates, birthday dates, anniversary dates......all numbers. Every time anyone asks my name in RCH Treliske or even getting through my GP surgery door I get asked my date of birth. So many numbers.

I’m the 3rd son of a family of 5 boys, we were brought up in a biggish house in with a multigenerational household; me my brothers, mum and dad, 2 of my mum’s siblings (Uncle Fred and Aunt Marion) and my maternal grandmother. 10 in all. The house itself was full of numbers. 5 staircases, 10 bedrooms, 36 windows. Everyone except my parents had their own room.

Oddly though, I’ve always had a knack of flipping numbers about, I can write 96 instead of 69. I can’t hold a measurement in my head if I’m spoken to, I need to be uber (to a great or extreme degree, not a taxi) careful whenever I measure anything. This challenge I have has a name it’s called dyscalculia or number blindness. Once it got me into real trouble when I worked for Ford Motor Company as a parts analyst, I sent a shipment of 50 Ford Transit back axles to South Africa instead of Australia. Fortunately for me the shipment should have been checked before the production line ground to a halt. To restart the production line 50 heavy axles were sent to Australia by air freight, a tad pricey. All because I wrote 69 instead of 96. Unsurprisingly I left the job soon after.

So what numbers do I think you all need to know. Next Thursday 26/11/20 at 10:40 I’m meeting my consultant, so my planned walk is at 13:00 also on the 26/11/20. I intend to walk about 2 miles. I can only meet 1 person from 1 other household due to the Covid 19 rules that are in place until LD2 ends a 00:01 on 2/12/20. The start point is 50.3569274, -4.7731985.

Then after LD2 I have another walk planned on the 10/12/20 at 10:00. Here’s the details.

Why the walks? Why the effort? It’s because our charity efforts have stuck at £3,099. Come for a walk, give me some cash, and we can make that NUMBER grow.

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