daily prompt

I woulda made a good engineer

I’m pretty sure of that. I have a sharp mind and when push comes to shove, I’m good at figuring out how things work. I’m fairly mechanically inclined and I’m almost certain that had this been nurtured when I was young, I could have become a pretty good engineer. Or maybe an architect. I’m good enough at drawing and planning that I’d could have gone in that direction given the right schooling.

Calvin got it right

Calvin got it right

Why am I talking about coulda, woulda, shoulda when that’s not my style?  Well, I’ve already answered today’s daily prompt, which asks Which subject in school did you find impossible to master? Did math give you hives? Did English make you scream? Do tell! And as you can see in the previous post the answer to that question is math.  I found Mathematics to be my impossible subject.  I didn’t find out until much later, way too late to do anything about it, that the reason for this is because I have Dyscalculia.  Dyscalculia, for those who’ve never heard of it, is like Dyslexia with numbers.  It’s not that I find Math difficult, boring, or that I’m afraid of it because it’s “hard”.

I wish.

My mind simply does not comprehend basic numbers and formulas.  I. Just. Can’t. Do. It. Perhaps if I’d known this before age 43, I might have been able to compensate for it and maybe I could have been an engineer. But I’d never even heard of Dyscalculia until I was working on my BA and thought maybe I could become a teacher. But in order to get into the Education program, I needed to pass these math tests, which I couldn’t. In tears, I turned to some online forums and someone suggested I might have Dyscalculia. So, I got tested.

It affects the memory too

It affects the memory too

It explains so much… and not just the inability to do Math. Dyscalculia also affects the memory in certain ways. For example, facial recognition. I don’t remember faces very much at all. I worked around that by recognizing people’s hairline. Sounds funny, I know, but it works. Unless someone changes their hairstyle within the first year of me meeting them, then I won’t recognize them. But I’ll be the first to know if they get a haircut. Sometimes my facial recognition is so bad, that I’ll be watching a movie and be halfway through it before I realize, “Hey, I’ve seen this movie before.” And names, I’ll forget a person’s name, and I’m not shy about telling them either. It’s not my fault I have a crappy memory for names. I’ll just flat out say, “I’m sorry, I forgot your name.” If they get mad, too bad so sad for them.

Dyscalculia usually affects a person’s sense of direction too, but that’s a crapshoot with me. I’ll get lost the first time I’m trying to find a place, but once I’ve found it, I rarely, if ever, get lost again. I almost always know which way is East or West (and hence, North or South) if the sun is shining and I know what time it is. 🙂 I was a Girl Scout, you know. The Dyscalculia does mess with my spatial  reasoning and that kinda sucks.  I’ve never been able to see 3-D pictures. Like, ever. Remember those 3D pictures that were so popular in the early 1990’s? Nope. Never saw anything but squiggly lines.  And 3D movies? Forgetaboutit.  And, it affects the way I perceive time. It’s kind of (to paraphrase the Doctor) wibbly wobbly for me.  I very rarely remember exactly when something happened even to the year. Sometimes I can pin it down by where I lived when it happened, but that’s kinda iffy. Time and space… not my friends.

Yeah… Dyscalculia sucks. But I digress.

How I see all math problems

How I see all math problems

But here’s the thing.  While I have problems with the mechanics of Math, I have no difficulties grasping the concepts behind certain equations. For example, I know that to get the perimeter of a space, you add up all sides, but to find the area of the same space, you multiple the length times the width. Easy peasy… until I start plugging in numbers. That’s when things go haywire.  Because to get the numbers to add and/or multiply, I’d need to measure. And to measure, that means I need to write things down. This is where it gets tricky. I mean, say I have a measuring tape and go, for argument’s sake, out to my back yard to measure the fence so we can clad it in chicken wire (so the dogs will have a place to run).  Now I run the tape measure across the fence and write down what I see until I run out of fence. But I have Dyscalculia, right? So while I’m uber confident that I’m 100% correct in my numbers I’ll bet you money that at least one of those bad boys is mixed up or written down wrong. So I always measure at least three times and go with the most common number (bonus if all three are the same). It’s time consuming but better mostly right than mostly wrong. Then I’ve gotta plug those numbers into the formula to add up.  Life would be easy if my fence had only four sides, but this one has six sides, and three of them have gates. That gives me nine measurements to add up. Grrrrr.

As a language nerd, I get to read poems like this. ^_^

As a language nerd, I get to read poems like this. ^_^

This is not a daunting task for most people, I’m sure of it.

Now just imagine if I had tried to become an Architect or an Engineer. How much Math do you think is involved in that? o_O  Back when I was younger, I would draw houses and floor plans just because. It used to be that whatever house I stayed in, I thought, “I bet I could make this better…” and I’d set about rearranging it in my mind and on paper. My first husband and I had a pipe dream of building a big house for us and the kids. Never came to pass of course, and I was woefully ignorant of how houses worked back then, and forget about scale. Ha!  But now that I look back on it, I guess that spark was there all along. Now I have Sketchup to help me draw these things, and you can bet I’ll be doing the same for this house. The hubs and I have similar plans — to build a home we can retire in, but on the same spot this house is in using the same footprint. I’ve got years to think of what we need and want. Years to figure out how houses really work and I know more now than I ever did. And the good thing is, the computers do the Math for me. A little too little a little too late, but hey, it’s okay. Even though I probably would have made a great Engineer, I also make a great Language geek. ^_^  The pay isn’t as good, but I like it.

Edited to add: I found this picture and thought it relevant, so I figured I’d add it here. Just because.

I can quote whole movies sometimes. :)

I can quote whole movies sometimes. 🙂


9 thoughts on “I woulda made a good engineer

  1. Wow, you have described me to the Tee. I wonder if there is a test I could take to verify this, because even in my master’s program I have struggled to get through the two classes that involved math. Great post!


    • it’s not a test per se, it’s more like being tested for Dyscalculia. I was tested for it by the psychology department in my university and it cost me about $200 if I remember correctly (which I probably don’t). It wasn’t cheap, and I got a student discount. But I needed the official verification so I could opt out of Math things in college. ^_^


  2. I would have made a good engineer as well. Mechanical inclination was frowned upon when I was growing up because I have a vagina. It’s quite sad when you think of how many talented women have been discouraged based on gender alone.


    • And now universities are scrambling to get women into Engineering and other maths and sciences so they can get funding from the government. Ain’t Karma a bitch? ^_^


  3. My son has Dyscalculia. Fortunately, he grew up in the “you can use a calculator” generation. I didn’t, so I was dead in the water from the get-go. It seems like math was the Waterloo for an awful lot of us.


    • Using a calculator (or computer) only works if you put in the right numbers. Whenever I make a spreadsheet for anything, I have redundant formulas in there to check my math – numeric input. It takes extra time to set up, but in the end, it pays off.


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