NLD: A Math-Impacting Learning Disability

As many people already know, NLD causes difficulties learning math.  Sometimes it’s impossible.  I was diagnosed late and raised by math-loving parents who assumed that because I am musically talented, I must automatically be good at all my academic subjects.  What a myth. They said I had an attitude problem when I didn’t get algebra the first time around.

Before that, I struggled with arithmetic, pre-algebra, and geometry.  I ended up repeating algebra three times (both due to not getting it the first time and needing to review the skills because I don’t practice math much, just as someone with reading disabilities tends not to read as much/often as someone without them).  Then I took a very watered-down basic geometry class so I would be accepted to the university I worked so hard to transfer to (I wanted to attend an excellent school because I’ve spent so many years needing to prove my intelligence and having the degree on paper sometimes helps, but not as often as one could wish; plus I’m not a school-name-dropper; if I’d felt like my intelligence was credited throughout my life, I wouldn’t be so obsessed with being admitted to the best schools, but that’s another topic).

Then I took Algebra II, which went fine because it’s so tied into Algebra I, and my professor was very good at explaining things in easy-to-understand ways.  Unfortunately, now my future department wants all students to take a statistics course.  I’ve dropped the class twice because I don’t understand things fast enough, or at all.  Many times people think not getting math is a decision, as if we choose to dislike it.  This isn’t true.

When someone doesn’t understand a basic academic subject, it’s painful.  We would like nothing more than to confidently write problems on the chalk board, but NLD makes this experience unlikely.  My former professor was walking around looking at our notes.  When he looked at mine, he stepped back, as if to say “what the heck is this.”  Sigh.  I tried to get good at math many times, but it’s never worked out.  I hope my department will approve a course substitution.

Too often, math-disability literature doesn’t focus on the college years.  This is a big problem, since nearly all colleges require students to take some math or math-related courses.  I hope that talking about this helps someone else.  I’ll let you know what happens with my department.  There have been worse problems in life, and this one ought to be fixable.  Let’s hope so.  Thanks for reading about this, and if you have ideas, please comment.  More later.


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8 Responses to “NLD: A Math-Impacting Learning Disability”

  1. talblinddk Says:

    Hey, you should check out http:/ if you need support – tons of friendly members 🙂

  2. Aishtamid Says:

    Hi hannahcamille,

    I also have NLD and went through exactly the same situation as you. Growing up, I just couldn’t do math at all and my parents spent hours trying to find me tutor after tutor while I tried and tried and still failed. It was incredibly frustrating because I’m very good at other subjects – I speak three languages, for example. Yet when it came to math, I could barely pass 9th grade math in college.

    The important thing is to realize that you aren’t stupid and that this is NLD working. It among other things gave me a bit of an inferiority complex for a while.

    • hannahcamille Says:

      Which three languages do you speak, and when did you begin studying them? That’s very impressive.

      It’s so true about math.

      Thanks for your note.

  3. farnel Says:

    I’ve not completed a college degree because of this same problem. I would get tutors and have help from friends but they and I only have ended up frustrated. (and they mostly likely think I’m some sort of moron)

    • hannahcamille Says:

      What college were you attending? There are several that don’t make you take math now. However, as you probably know, they do require similar classes like logic, “math for the world,” et cetera. What field are you in? Glad to know I’m not alone. Thanks for your note.

  4. Clementine Says:

    I placed into Calc Honors at my undergraduate alma mater because I took a high school calculus class though I didn’t really complete the class (skipped the final). In high school, I had to spend extra time with teachers to learn concepts. I withdrew from Calc Honors in undergrad due to illness and tried to take the non-Honors version of the class later which didn’t go well. My professor was foreign with a thick accent. Accents in general are hard for me to follow (including American accents). I withdrew again. I registered for Statistics which was at first difficult, but I went to the math tutoring center (staffed by some professors and some grad students) at my college to complete my Stat assignments. I believe I got an A in the class. When I was in grad school I didn’t finish my graduate level Quantitative Reasoning course. When I retook the course, I sought math tutoring assistance at the student assistance office. The representative of the school informed me that because it’s an Ivy League school, most of the students score very well on the math sections of standardized tests and this they don’t need to provide learning support for math–only reading and writing. So my student fee was allotted towards supporting other students’ reading and writing deficiencies but I was advised to spend my student loan dollars on private math tutoring because I was obviously abnormal in my request for math learning support. I understand that schools need to allocate their funds effectively but I know there were other students who could’ve benefited from a math help center if there had been such a free resource available to us. Very frustrating!

    • hannahcamille Says:

      Hi, First of all, glad you’ve attended an Ivy. I commend you for this, and showing people, if you will, that we with learning challenges also have wonderful gifts and intellectual skills–so good for you for helping to reduce myths. I’m sad and surprised your school, with its high tuition (and likely promise to provide academic support when you were looking at schools), did not care to provide math help. Math-related LD issues are super-common, and they should know that. I’d also expect an Ivy to be big on individual attention and thus tutoring. They ought to be ashamed for failing to find supportive help for a dedicated student. I am very sorry you had to deal with such an abhorrent experience.

      What program were you in for grad school? Do you like it?

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