2 + 2 equals 22

Karey and I were driving to nearby Victoria yesterday to view the venue we were considering using for our Second Annual full day Dyslexia Awareness Workshop. The one we did last February was so successful we had we were happy to do it again, especially because of all the new things we have discovered since last year.

The drive to view the place took us about an hour so we took that time to sort of roll some ideas around.  Karey and I spend a lot of time researching new techniques to help teach Dyslexics. While doing so we find information concerning studies about Right and Left Brained thinking and related topics. Karey had her laptop open to an article about how the Right Brain and Left perceive information differently. At first I thought this was just stuff I already knew and sure enough, most of what we talked about was familiar to both of us. Then I had an epiphany. Well maybe not an epiphany but I did make a connection I hadn’t thought about before.

As I have mentioned before I don’t consider myself  Dyslexic but I am very Right Brained and as a result I share many views about the difficulty of understanding abstracts with Karey, who is Dyslexic.  Karey mentioned something from the article she was reading about “2 + 2” and how this concept is perceived differently by the Left and Right brain. Can you imagine that, the Left and Right brain can actually come up with different answers to the question: what is 2 plus 2?

The mono-semantic nature of the left brain is consistent with its syntactical and arithmetical functionality. Broca’s area, or the language processing center of the brain, is a complex of nerve cells that structure a thought into a syntactically correct sentence. Broca’s area is predominantly in the left hemisphere, even for left-handed people. The scattered and poly-semantic thinking of the right brain is not very good at producing language or arithmetic. To the left brain, 2+2=4. To the right brain, maybe it is 4, maybe not. The right brain will eagerly search for scenarios in which 2+2 does not equal 4, and might be disappointed when it doesn’t find any.
Brack—March, 2005.
http://neuropolitics.org/Conservative-Left-Brain-Liberal-Right-Brain.htm

To just about everybody it is  well accepted that 2 plus 2 equals 4, but maybe not. One of the things I sometimes point out to people at our workshops is an example of how abstract our English language is. When we print the symbol 2 on a chalkboard or Smartboard we usually say this is the NUMBER 2. It is not the number 2 but rather the NUMERAL 2 and it represents a group of 2 things. Sure this is a tiny little distinction but an important one.  There is a very real difference between a symbol that refers to something and the actual concept described. So let’s look at the equation 2 plus 2.

When you add two groups of two things of course you are going to come up with four objects. But that Right Brain of mine went a different way. If you actually look at what the equation is says, put the symbol 2 and put it with the other symbol 2. So, 2 plus 2 equals 22. Does seem like a little thing to you? Yes it does and most teachers would have hard time accepting the logic of what I just described. So what is my point?

Right Brained individuals and dyslexics think on lots of different levels, they are always looking for connections to ideas. Processes can be improved, ideas can be looked at from different directions and many times a concept that seems pretty obvious to some people are not obvious to others. Right brained thinkers always look for these connections, they can’t help it.

This is a great ability when “out of the box” thinking is required which is often in the real world outside of school. But if a Dyslexic student looks at “2 + 2” and thinks “22” and they can if they misunderstand the instructions, they are marked wrong. Some of these children will bravely argue a point like this and get shut down. This can be confusing to them on one level but can also shut them down in the classroom to the point they start believing they are stupid. In the UK this is called RSI which stands for Repetitive Statement Injury and means if something is said enough times to someone they start to believe it’s true.

Thank goodness for Left and Right brained thinkers; different answers to the same question can just be considered creative.

Happy trails!
Howie deGraaf
Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online
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