Long Division

Which subject in school did you find impossible to master? Did math give you hives? Did English make you scream? Do tell!


Sixth grade stands out in my mind as the year I erased holes in my math papers doing long division. 

I understood the process.  It wasn’t that hard.  I just could never make the numbers work.  Looking back, I realize now that I had–and still do have–a thing like dyslexia, but it’s called dyscalcula. 

What that means, for those who find numbers gangs of fun, is that I see, for instance, the number 38, and I write it down as 83.  See?  Creates no end of trouble.

I’ll see  8 x 2 and put down 10. Or maybe 6.  Right answer, wrong process.  It’s maddening.  Long division drove me insane. I would start each assignment with great determination.  I was pretty much an A student, and for some reason or other I managed at least a B in math, and sometimes an A.  I knew I wasn’t stupid, but I just kept making these crazy mistakes.

My teacher was very little help.  He just kept telling me to be more careful.


For those of you who are saying, “Well, why didn’t you just use your calculator?”  You need to understand that this would have been  1959.  We didn’t have pocket calculators.  We learned the process, and I’m glad for that. Later, when we were introduced to slide rules, it was almost magical to have an instrument that, properly used, would figure out all sorts of problems for you.

When I started college, I got a job as a cashier in a grocery store.

My register often did not add up at the end of the day. I eventually lost that job under a cloud of accusation that I was skimming money.  I wasn’t, and I was horrified and angry to be accused.  Now, I understand that it was because of the way my brain would see numbers and then transfer them from my eyes to my fingers on the cash register keys.  This was before scanners.  You had to read the price on the item, punch it in, take the payment, make change. Big problem for someone who has dyscalcula.

I found out later than I had been a patsy for the manager of the store, who used me to cover his own shennanigans. He was sent to prison a year or so later for embezzlement.  I made errors, but I wasn’t dishonest.

Clearly, I wasn’t meant for a career as an accountant.  Instead, I became an English and history teacher, and I also did a lot of work with kids who had learning disabilities.  I understood their tears and frustration, and I loved being able to figure out ways to help them deal with their problems.

And now I’m a counselor, working three days each week talking with people, helping them solve life problems.

But I don’t help them solve their problems balancing their checkbooks 🙂


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