A Confession.

The reason you’re reading this is because you want the confession, right? Well first things first then. It’s that I cannot count. Well, I can COUNT, but the level of all other maths skills I have are so shockingly low, that I may as well not be able to get past ten. What’s brought this confession on? Well. At work, another waitress who works as a teacher gave me a maths sum that her Year Three class all completed successfully, yet proved impossible for the pair of us.

Snigger away. Any of you that haven’t come into contact with my arithmetic skills may be underestimiating just how bad I actually am. Those of you who have seen me try to split a restaurant bill between three people will be well aware by now. It’s not that I can’t actually do the maths, (okay, 80% of the time), it’s more that I’m so worried about getting it wrong, or making a fool of myself, that I just freeze up. It’s called “maths anxiety”, and apparently, it’s A Real Thing. I can’t be bothered to do the research, but I’ll just assume its a little bit like dyslexia but specifically to numbers, or a deep set psychological block between you and the equals sign. Either way, I have self-diagnosed myself with it.

Real life examples of my shockingly low ability aren’t exactly far and few between. Totting up the bus fare in change, figuring out monthly budgets, calculating the student discount price; I get so uneasy doing it that I usually give up. If I’m ever in debt to somebody for the splitting of a taxi or whatever, I’ll patiently wait until someone else suggests the repayment total before contributing.

I’ve always been keen to learn other languages, but the one place I always fall down at is when it comes to learning the name of numbers. I’ve been studying Chinese for two years, and it’d take me a good thirty seconds to remeber the word for 22. I’ve been doing French for over five and I’ve still no idea how to say 78. If it wasn’t so pathetic, it’d be funny.

It’s not as though I’m unintelligent, either. At least I’d like to think so. I got B at GCSE level (my proudest ever number-related achievement), I’ve functioned successfully behind a till before, and I happen to be a student at The University of York- so it’s not as though I’m completely incapable of any complex thought or analytical skills.There’s something about algebra that draws a blank expression, every time.

I’m in the middle of attempting to combat this embarrassing inability.  I’m taking an online course offered by the wonderful careers service at The University of York called “Numbers At Work”- a fact that my nearest and dearest have taken plenty an opportunity to mock me over. They just can’t believe that I’d voluntarily opt to be assessed on my knowledge of Pythagoras, wherever that is. (I’m joking. Calm down.)

The reason I’m putting myself through this unknown level of hell is simple. Self improvement. To avoid future embarrassing situations, the ones where people slowly turn to look at you in awe when they register that you’ve actually just publicly admitted to not being able to times by four without a calculator. Where you get looks of confusion when you purposefully overestimate how much a taxi will cost, just so you don’t get caught out. When people judge you for not being able to instantly determine the cost in GBP when the price is written in euros.

People are very judgemental about numeracy skills. Having a way with numbers is considered the proof of how clever a person is, and the fact that I am substantially lacking in this area leaves me by the wayside, still trying to count my fingers and toes, while everyone else is already sussing out the complexities of intense mechanical mathematics. At least, that’s what is seems like. And I’m ready to sacrifice the time to prove that I am in fact CAPABLE, I just choose to hide behind my achievements in English-based subjects in order to avoid ever being proved wrong. Because at the end of it all, that’s what this is about. I hate being wrong. Being wrong torments me like the most unachievable algebraic equation in the world being completed by a class of nine year olds while I struggle on. And I just won’t stand for it.

Farrah Kelly

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