Why would a mathematics blog be interested in dyslexia? Aren’t dyslexics people who flip numbers and letters around? Perhaps it would be best for dyslexics to stick to art. Andy Warhol and Whoopi Goldberg are excellent examples of artists who are dyslexic. Can a mathematician be successful and dyslexic? Certainly there are some famous examples: Edison, Einstein, and da Vinci. But are these the exception or the rule?

Wikipedia asserts that 5-10% of the population may have dyslexia. Perhaps that’s a high enough percentage to imagine that there must be dyslexic mathematicians. And perhaps it’s time to admit that I’m dyslexic. When I teach, I try to hide it under a thin veil of over preparation. But, this semester, my preparation was eventually of no use. For you see, I had- once again – confused myself about if Cartesian coordinates is listed (x,y) or (y,x)… Yes, I finally had to admit my failing to 200 undergraduates, so I thought it best that I admit my flaw to you as well. In fact, my favorite button growing up was

Dyslexics of the world UNTIE!

I definitely read this button as unite for about an hour until someone told me about my error. I remember my father having me copy an entire page out of a logarithm book when I was in high school. Do you know what a logarithm book is? Well back in the day before computers, when you needed to know log(2.4), you would pull out a musty volume from your shelf. You would open up your logarithm book to endless pages comprised entirely of tables. Here’s an example:

The goal of this exercise from my father was to determine if I could accurate copy when that was the ONLY thing I was trying to do. I was thinking, “Seriously, Dad, can *anyone* do that?” But it turns out that after an excruciatingly long time copying and checking that even I could copy a page accurately from a logarithm book. So perhaps it is possible for a dyslexic to become a mathematician…?

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About Samantha from SocialMath

Applied Mathematician and writer of socialmathematics.net.

Can’t prove it, but I bet Abel, Galois, and all those group theory guys were dyslexics. Dyslexia more likely counts against accountants, librarians, bank tellers, or one of those other professions that still use numbers … fewer and fewer of them each year.