Blog:  The Inside Track

What “I’m Not a Math Person” Means to Me

The Inside Track blog post by Savannah Treviño Casias
Nov 12, 2015

Savannah Treviño-Casias

“I’m not a math person.”

Most of us have heard someone say this. Often it’s said as a joke or to get a good laugh. Other times, it’s said matter-of-factly.

One thing is for sure—the phrase is thrown around a lot. And most people probably don’t think much about what it might mean to someone like me.

I have dyscalculia, a learning issue that makes it harder for me to make sense of numbers and math concepts. Dyscalculia affects me in all sorts of ways. For instance, when I’m in the checkout line buying groceries, I struggle to make change. I also have difficulty with telling time and estimating distance. Mental math? Forget it. The calculator is my best friend.

Lots of people have this learning issue. I’ve read that researchers now believe dyscalculia may be almost as common as dyslexia, the most widely known learning issue.

Because of my dyscalculia, when I hear someone say “I’m not a math person,” I cringe. I guess it’s because I’ve tried to be a “math person” my entire life, but it hasn’t been easy. Or maybe because it feels like they’re making light of something I struggle with.

What makes it even tougher is that many people don’t even know there is a learning disability related to math.

One recent example: This summer, I went to a conference in Washington, DC, to advocate for children with learning and attention issues. As the event started, I was sitting with other students at a table, preparing to do a group art activity. I was the only student at the table with dyscalculia.

While doing the activity, I started talking to another student next to me. He asked me if I had a learning issue, and I told him I had dyscalculia. He was puzzled and said he didn’t know what dyscalculia was.

I was stunned because we were at a conference on learning issues!

To his credit, he wanted to know more. And I don't blame him. A lot of people don’t know about dyscalculia.

In fact, I went for years without knowing how to describe why numbers just didn’t click for me. I wondered what was wrong and what I could do differently. Then I found out that there was an explanation, and it was a huge revelation.

Once I knew the source of my struggles, I embraced my dyscalculia. Accepting my learning difference made me a better student because I started to understand how I learn best and what support I need. What helped me the most was my change in mindset and getting one-on-one attention from math teachers and tutors.

In some ways, maybe I’ve become the “math person” I always wanted to be. Sure, I have dyscalculia, but I know that with the right help, I can succeed in math. After all, I passed my high school statistics class!

So the next time someone says “I’m not a math person,” it’s the perfect time to ask, “Hey, have you ever heard of dyscalculia?” And if they say no, it’s the perfect time to explain.

Watch this video to learn more about Savannah’s experience with dyscalculia.

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About the Blogger

Portrait of Savannah Treviño-Casias

Savannah Treviño-Casias is a student at Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University, where she studies psychology.

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