It might seem arbitrary to just take one subject, especially an inherently challenging one like mathematics and assume people reading this post struggle with it. I am sure many people would say they struggle with mathematics, but did you know, studies show that people with SD and CP in general, struggle a lot more on average when it comes to mathematics compared to others? For example, this Dutch study from 2011 where they tested 116 primary school children diagnosed with CP, shows a strong correlation between cognitive skills motor skills and the ability to do arithmetic. They also write that this is in line with previous studies done on this subject.[1]

Math and CP. Cerebral Palsy and math
Image courtesty of p_ponomareva @ iStockphoto.com

When I grew up I always hated math, honestly because I was horrible at it. I struggled for hours both at school and at home trying to understand what was supposedly basic math problems, and it felt like if I understood it today, I would forget it again tomorrow. Not only did I hate math, but it also affected my self esteem and self confidence, I thought there was something wrong with me, or that I was just stupid. Later on when I did some extensive cognitive testing (around 17-18) I soon learned that not only was the neuropsychologist able to confirm what I already knew, that my brains ability to process anything with numbers and logical functions like math problems was impaired. But she could also tell me that it was most likely do to my CP. This was such a huge relief to me! Yes, I was still horrible at math, but now i knew that it wasn´t because I was stupid, it was due to factors out of my control. After this I could actually start to appreciate Math a lot more, because I didnt have the same hate towards it (tied to my self confidence) than before. I got my own private math tutor in High School, and I passed the same curriculum as my classmates, I was still no star pupil, but hey, I passed.

So does this mean you should avoid mathematics at all costs in your life? I would say as long as you are comfortable with the fact that your mind will have some problem with math, and wrestling with it won´t get you down, absolutely not. Because you will get better at it, like everything else, it might just take longer than other things. I use math daily in my job as a programmer, and even though I always resort to my trusty friend the calculator, I´ve noticed some good progress on areas I thought of as hopeless before. The main thing I would say, is if you struggle with math, and you have CP or you have a kid who was CP and struggles with math is to come to terms with it, and accept it for what it is. You are not stupid, this is just the way things are, and its out of your control. Really, in the grand scheme of things, humans are skilled and less skilled at different things in life, people with CP just have scientific evidence to back up why they are not as good at some things. 🙂

As always, please comment if you have had any experience with this, and be sure to like and share this post if you found it useful. The support is much appreciated.

References

1. http://www.academia.edu/1452224/Arithmetic_performance_of_children_with_cerebral_palsy_The_influence_of_cognitive_and_motor_factors

24 Responses

  1. When I used to try to honestly tell him I was not the whiz as he is, he’d whack me over the head and scream if I was just honestly fucking stupid. I’d say yes, and this would escalate time…after time…after time…after time…after time…after time again.

    I often believed, if I could not be like him, that I was a failure in life. And the depression and anxiety would kick in hard. For most of my childhood and adolescence.

    A year ago, I took a Statistics class here in the American version of junior college (don’t know what its equivalent is in Norway), and, after extensive practice and mastery, I passed with an A.

    This Fall, I’ll be taking sort of a Fundamentals to Calculus class. Like you Alex, I don’t enjoy math either — but I hope, with time and grace, that both my dad and mom realize that I have strengths and weaknesses too, some of it due to my spastic diplegia and some of it based off of preferences (the subjects I naturally come to love).

    He can be the math and science whiz all he wants, but I did develop my interests in history and politics from him. Although I am more inclined to the Humanities breadth of subjects as it is. 🙂

    ~ Josh from California, USA

    1. Thanks for commenting Josh! 🙂

      Yeah I know what you mean, my parents sometimes got on me for not trying hard enough when it came to maths. They couldn´t understand why I did well enough in all the other subjects, also because I was so bad at it, I started to avoid it more, which probably strengthened their suspicions. But they eventually understood it was not for lack of trying.

      Thats awesome though, I really believe you can do well in math even if you have CP, it just takes more work and dedication. It also helps to have an understanding teacher. I hope you´re parents will come around and accept the challenges with math as well. We all have our strengths and weaknesses 🙂

  2. Alexander, thank you for explaining why I’ve struggled with math my entire life! I couldn’t stay in the National Honor Society because grades in classes with numbers always brought GPA down. I would have had straight A’s or pretty close if it were not for my math grades. I never knew about the connection to CP, although I started to wonder when a friend in college who had CP talked to me about it. She had the same issue. My brain just cannot process algebra, geometry, or simple math for that matter.

  3. My daughter now 22 y also struggled with math in school. We live in Hungary/Budapest. The phenomena is called dyscalculia. Dislexia (reading disorder) and disgrafia (writing disorder)is also common among people with CP.This disorder is pretty hard to detect. Usually it takes years before parents realize there’s a problem, and teachers are not exactly trained to point out a student with dyscalculia, whereas a student with CP might be of risk. Anyway it might be of help to know that in some countries (like Hungary) students with diagnosed dyscalculia, dislexia and disgrafia can enjoy exemption from national curriculum of the given subject. Early diagnosis is important because application for exemption is only excepted until the age of 13y. Altough they can learn e.g math as much as they want (and should too), but at least they don’t have write their graduate exams in the subject. It’s worth checking out the same possibilities in your country.

    1. Hello Judit and thanks for commenting. I did not know there was a spesific condition for this, allthough it makes sense. I believe it is also possible to be exempt from certain subjects in school over here. I did that with gymnastics in High School, but since nobody ever told me about the math being tied to the CP it was never discussed as an option, I was just presumed to have a lot of difficulties with the subject for whatever reason.

  4. I wonder if there is a link between linguistics and CP. Evan struggles with math but is an excellent reader and is learning two other languages as well as English.

    1. Yes, I will have to research that, I´ve always had a knack for languages, and I read quite fast too, my doctors theorized that because I didn´t walk until I was 4, i developed my communication skills at a faster rate to compensate.

  5. Any suggestions to improve math skills? My daughter (9, SDCP) struggles with math–but it’s not going away. SOLs (US standardized tests) are tough, and in her teens, she will have to pass to advance a grade. Did you find a certain type of study/tutor/help was better than others? Thanks

    1. What worked for me was getting private tutoring, as it became even harder for me with math if I also had to focus in a noisy classroom.The tutor I had was specialized in advanced pedagogy, and was excellent at teaching. Aside from that, I also enjoyed learning math in a more practical and applied way. Learning them through games and such for example. I think the best thing to do is to build confidence, and make sure she knows there is a reason why she struggles. And try to make math more fun or interesting. Cause if she starts to let it affect her self confidence and starts hating math, its very hard to find the motivation. I hope this was of any help.

  6. Thanks Alexander, this has helped me so much to understand what my son is going through. My son has just turned 11 & he really struggles with Maths & all of the things you have mentioned I have seen with him. Jack is at camp at the moment and as soon as he gets back I’m going to show him your site. Thank you!

    1. Im glad to hear you found it helpful Kylie! 🙂 This seems to be an area/effect of the CP that is not very well communicated. The medical professionals seems to focus mostly on the physical aspects, but the cognitive ones can surely cause just as much frustration!

  7. Oh my gosh, thank you for posting this! I have SD CP, and I’ve always had problems with math as well (especially geometry and anything involving visual-spatial skills). This always struck me as kind of odd, considering I was pretty decent at other subjects (I especially have a knack for foreign languages and English). Now I know there’s a reason! Thanks!

    1. Hehe yes I can relate to that, i have problems when it comes to spatial awareness and maths as well, my brain goes on strike hehe. Weirdly enough I also had a knack for languages (English was my favorite subject in school). Im glad you found the post helpful!

  8. I was a very good student but I struggled with maths, too. I wouldn´t blame this on my CP, but on the fact that my Dad was eager that I should be the math lover he was. I never liked maths, maybe I wanted to oppose to my father. In my younger days we were not allowed to make noise or run around in class. We all had to concentrate on learning, or the teacher would send us out of the classroom. I have tried to work as a techer sometimes and I think that if I were a student these days I would have concentration problems, CP or not CP! I admire the kids who are able to concentrate on learing these days! Cell phones, running aound, talking, playing music – my GOd!!!

    1. and when I was offered a job that involved a lot of numbers and counting, I told the employer that I was suffering from dyscalculia and would be a disaster for the company. It is a Greek word and being a language person I thougt I made it up, as there is something called dyslexia.(My husband had dyslexia) Then I found ut that there is really a disability called dyscalculia, which is not what I have, however, because it involves not recognising numbers or not being able to learn the clock etc…

  9. I don’t know….this seems like the last thing we need is to connect cp and math skills. Plenty of people without cp struggle with math. I’d really look at the study’s methodology before I put too much stock into it.

    1. Hello Amy and thanks for your comment! 🙂 Yes, a lot of people struggle with math without having CP. I agree that it would help if I found more than just this study, I know there are additional research on the topic of CP and math, I may write a follow up post on this at a later date. I became aware of this possible connection through my Neuropsychologist at the hospital here. She said that it was fairly common for people with CP to have challenges when it came to this. I am sure it is not applicable to everyone, but it can be maybe one possible explanation, and therefore I figured this could be of interest to others.

  10. I just came across this website via Facebook and I’m in tears. My 12 yr old daughter has been struggling with math and now I can explain to her that it is likely related to her CP. it definitely effected her self-esteem last year and she just had a neuropsych exam (still waiting on results) but at least I can request a private tutor for school and have some sort of hope that she will be able to succeed with her classmates. She is taking regular classes, except for math and that has definitely brought her down emotionally. I’m thrilled to have stumbled upon this website. Now I can cry happy tears!! Thank you SO MUCH!!

    1. If you have CP and struggle with math, yes it can be related. Its still individual from person to person, but people with cp can struggle with math more than others. You should try talking to your school about it, they may be able to help. Alternatively, you could get a test from a cognitive psychologist, they help you map out how your brain works basically.

  11. I have cp and I’ve always struggled with math couldn’t do it to save my life. English was my strongest subject. Even though I can’t do math I can remember dates of events. Does anyone else find that also true for them

  12. Danielle,
    That is so me, I can’t do math to safe my life because of cp. I was always failing or barely passing Math with a D. English and history were my strong subjects. But I can remember people’s birthdays or other events. I often wondered was it just me or is this a cp thing that we can remember dates. I would love to look more in to that. My dad
    once asked me how do you remember dates and I told him I see a calendar in my head. Would love to find more information as to why I can’t do math to save my life but can remember dates.

  13. I have extremely mild CP, meaning I can walk and run, and I was an A student, but I struggled with math a bit too, not so much that I needed a tutor though, more like that I had an A in all subjects, and a B in maths, what lead me to being scared of math and have an A+ in oral exams and oral contribution and a D in written tests (the marks where I live are different, just want to make the problem understood). I cannot remember dates or numbers very well though, and I have no knack for practical things in and outside maths, I do not like geometry, but I like statistical tools and algebra related things.
    I completely suck at spatial awareness however.
    Also I learned speaking pretty quickly and have a knack for languages so researching into that would be a pretty good idea actually.
    Yet, I wonder how much of this is CP, how much is this is related to my gender (I am female) and how much of this is genetic, since my dad tended to learn languages quickly and hated science (I was good in biology in chemstry though) in school and my aunt has a knack for cultural studies, but no spatial awareness whatsoever. So in my case it can also be inherited.

  14. Oh my goodness! This article has me almost in tears, my son has struggled with math for years and I recently saw a post on a FB page about CP and math and that led me here to your article. Thank you

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