Linda Maye Adams

Being Right-Brained and the Math Horror Zone

The first time I realized I was right-brained was a few years ago.  I’d picked up a book called Organizing for Your Brain Type. As I was reading, I suddenly realized, “OMG!  It’s me!  This is me!”  It was explanation of why all the things that worked so well for everyone else didn’t work for me.

Math was one of those things.  Right-brained people are holistic thinkers and very creative.  It takes a huge mental shift to think sequentially and be logical.  My first experience with this was a 2nd grade math class.  I was called up to the chalkboard to figure out a math problem.  Evidently I was taking too long, and the teacher spanked me in front of the class.  Can I hide now?

I got by in later classes, I think, because I memorized a lot, and I could watch for patterns.  I was still a poor student when it came to any kind of math.  Fractions and division were particular confusing.

But what got me was algebra.  It was required in high school, so I had to take it.  The teacher goes to the chalkboard and scrawls out something like X + 7 = 15, then starts dashing off formulas rapid fire.  I was still stuck on what the heck X meant.  Then the teacher assigned us homework.  I took it home, and it was, “What do I do with this?”

So I asked my father, who is a math guru.  He showed me how to do the formulas.  My brain started to hurt from all of the logic.  It took a long time to get the work done, and was mentally exhausting.  But I checked my answers against the back of the book.  Yay!  I’d gotten all of them right.

The homework came back from the teacher with a big, ugly 0 at the top and slashes through every problem.  I never did better than that.  The teacher couldn’t be bothered to tell me what I was doing wrong, so I got a D for the final grade.  I looked down at that D and wished that it had reflected all the tremendous effort I’d done.  I worked harder than all the other students and yet, had nothing to show for it.  I walked out of that class without learning anything new and hating math.

School days are always a horror for kids, something Buffy the Vampire Slayer took advantage of.  Have you traversed the minefield in school and survived to tell the tale?  Share it, so I can feel like I’m not alone in the Math Horror Zone.


  1. kristylyseng

    I know exactly what you went through! I hated match with a passion. I remember taking math in summer school, and even though I did all of the homework I still got out of the class with a below average mark. And this society seems to LOVE math. If you have good math grades, you’re gold! If you don’t have them, you are the scum of the universe. (I am exaggerating, but that’s what it felt like.) I’m not a fan of IQ tests either. I think a lot of the questions are written for left-brained people. I didn’t realize how much I used my right-brain until I took an online test developed by the Art Institute of Vancouver back in January.

    Test is here:


    • Yeah — I took that same test. I was 67%. It’s no wonder I have trouble with outlines, too. It was an eye opener, because it told me exactly why I have so much trouble with the beginnings of my stories.


      • kristylyseng

        Wow! You scored higher than I did. I only got 51%. I can’t say I have trouble with outlines because I haven’t worked with them consistently. However, I doubt I’d be able to work with an incredibly detailed outline. I think I’d feel boxed in. On the other hand, I know writing by the seat of my pants doesn’t work for me. Lol I think I’m somewhere in between.


  2. Wow, good post! But then I’m biased, always had problems with maths and algebra just sent those shutters rolling down. And on top of that I have the propensity to switch numbers around as I transfer them from place to place – just never ask me to copy a list of phone numbers from one address book to another! Yet despite this I did have a scientific brain (less abstract: more concrete I guess) and even gained an A Level in Physics (for which you would usually need to be good at maths) You are not alone!


    • I often get telephone numbers wrong, even when I’m trying to be careful. I’m half-expecting to dial China accidentally one day!


  3. I solved this math problem (pun intended) by marrying a mathematician. However, I’m now considering taking a class at community college to get a handle on math as a point of pride.


  4. I just can’t resist such tests! I’m 60% left-brained, 40% right-brained, which perhaps explains my combined engineer/writer persona!


  5. Yup, had a sixth grade school horror story with math. It was division and I didn’t understand what the teacher was saying-divide this, add this, subtract this, then divide again????? So I went home and worked at it until I thought I had it right. Took in the homework and apparently got the right answer–but horror of horrors, the teacher came storming up, angry and calling me out in front of the whole class for cheating. I had the right answer but the calculations were crazy wrong–I had worked it out but apparently in the wrong way. Instead of asking me to show her how I got the answer she chose to accuse me of cheating–which was devastating. Scarred forever-ha!


  6. Trish Loye Elliott

    I’m so sorry to hear all the horror stories about math. I love it myself. I’m a physicist but not completely left-brained (64% according to the test), which maybe explains my love of fiction. Most of my horror stories from school came from writing… English papers actually. My grade 12 teacher kept telling me that the only reason I was passing his course was because I’d memorized grammar rules and that I wrote like someone in grade 3. *shrugs* I like that I’m now a writer. When I hit the NYT Bestseller list, I’m going to mail a copy of my book to him. I think he’d laugh actually. Sometimes teachers are inspiring and sometimes they suck.


  7. I can never get the right answer on that kind of test because I see both left-brained and right-brained answers to almost all the questions. I have literally no preference.

    That said, that teacher makes my blood want to boil!


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