EEVblog Electronics Community Forum
General => General Chat => Topic started by: PStevenson on March 16, 2012, 10:19:52 pm

I have this form of dyslexia which affects my ability to see numbers properly, they appear all jumbled up and I've had to have people read out numbers when I'm trying to work something out, this has really really hindered my advancement in electronics as you can imagine so I was wondering if any of you have tips and work arounds to avoiding mathematics when designing circuits. I can design circuits but lets say I wanted to use that DCDC switchmode convertor dave did a video about a while ago, it would take me four hours to get through one line of the datasheet equations and I know they are simple, I understood exactly what they were as Dave read it out and solved it for his application.
as you can imagine this is extremely frustrating because I love electronics more than anything I do, even more than music, it's a total bastard when you can't even copy the numbers into a calculator !

hey sorry to hear about inpedement.very brave of you to come out.is there a speech to text calculator out there that might help.i reverse some numbers .i have to say them in pairs.

Is it anything to do with eyesight? Would be as well to eliminate any trouble there to give you the best chance.
I have difficulty reading numbers when they are all close together, like for example a credit card number with the spaces removed. That's definitely not helped by my eyesight. A technique I sometimes find helpful is to cover up all except the small bit I am looking at with bits of paper so my eyes don't get confused by the surrounding detail.
On the subject of mathematics itself, the essence of mathematics is seeing patterns and pictures in your mind. When working mechanically with formulas on paper it's like looking at the paint instead of the painting.
It can help enormously for all people to visualize what the formulas "mean" and work with them in your head rather than on paper. That way you move the problem from your physical vision to your mind's eye. It may be that this could help you to see what you are doing more clearlyyour sight may get confused but perhaps your brain may not? You will have changed the problem from a jumble of symbols to a clear picture.

Is it anything to do with eyesight? Would be as well to eliminate any trouble there to give you the best chance.
I have difficulty reading numbers when they are all close together, like for example a credit card number with the spaces removed. That's definitely not helped by my eyesight. A technique I sometimes find helpful is to cover up all except the small bit I am looking at with bits of paper so my eyes don't get confused by the surrounding detail.
With credit card numbers, once you have entered it, it's very easy to use the mouse to highlight the 8 middle numbers. This makes it very easy to see, and check, the numbers in blocks of 4. The highlight edge gives you a separator at either the start or end of each block of 4.
for example...
(http://psi.abcom.co.nz/cc.jpg)
(number not a real credit card)

Wow, this sounds like a really bad problem. This will make it hard to design circuits.
One thing you might find interesting are the application notes by Jim Williams. The guy was an analog electronics fanatic and relied very much on his intuition and experience, not on equations. Problem is, the app notes are more for the advanced reader, not so good for learning electronics. But there is one very good app note by him that is more fundamental:
http://cds.linear.com/docs/Application%20Note/an47fa.pdf (http://cds.linear.com/docs/Application%20Note/an47fa.pdf)
No equations, and it will teach you much about high speed circuits.
This is the complete list of his app notes: http://www.linear.com/doclist/?dt=2&au=Jim+Williams (http://www.linear.com/doclist/?dt=2&au=Jim+Williams)

I was going to reiterate that a text to speech converter may be helpful for you.
Also, my wife is a behavioural optometrist. Her practice doesn't just prescribe glasses, they look at the functions of sight as a whole system, including the brain. There are some treatments out there that widely accepted in the field yet, but she's told me of some exceptional improvements in most of her patients. It might be worth looking in to, but I am unsure if she knows of anyone in the UK practicing these techniques.
[edit]
I just did a search and came across this site http://www.babo.co.uk/ (http://www.babo.co.uk/) in the UK.
[/edit]
She also wanted me to mention a recent development called colorimetry. It involves colored lenses of varying degrees and this site, http://www.ceriumoptical.com/vistech/specialists.aspx (http://www.ceriumoptical.com/vistech/specialists.aspx), will point you to someone that can test you for this.
This is one of her passions as she sees people that can easily be helped that do not get the help that they need.

What about if you look at a list of numbers vertically? Do you get the same issue?
If not you might be able to work out a way to apply that to reading things.

I had to struggle with dyslexia. I was good at mathematics, but useless at formulas. I had to understand the formula fully otherwise it didn't make sense to me. So at school and university, I always did much better at higher math rather then the standard math as the standard math course was all about memorizing equations.
Still type with letters reversed, and sentences that sometimes don't make sense, but I have improved gradually over the decades.
In many ways, a slide rule would be good as it is all about thinking in sizes rather then numbers, but it does take a lot of mental discipline to get good at a slide rule. The accuracy of a slide rule is easily good enough for an average electronic design. The thing you realize from a slide rule is that often two digit resolution is all you need. If you make mistakes entering 5 digits or more, then reduce the digits down to a point where it is easier to check for an entry error.
My recommendations is for a calculator, it has to be an HP RPN calculator. Algebraic calculators at first glance appear simpler to use but in reality they are far more mentally difficult to use and are suited for the literal mind rather then the dyslexic mind. The basics of RPN is that you have to get the numbers first before you even think about what operation you are going to apply to them. I mean it is dumb thinking about the divide operation before you have the two numbers you need for the division already in the calculator. Literal minds might not understand that, but I think you might. You can do things one step at a time and you never need to touch literal mathematical constructs like brackets again.
Currently the best calculator ever made  the HP15C  is being reoffered by HP in a limited release. It is the perfect shape, size and it has just the right level of complexity so you can remember how to use it without needing to be a genius. The calculator is in landscape mode which is the best way for a calculator to be arranged. It has the best calculator keyboard available. Battery is a few button cell batteries and they last forever. I still have my HP11C (slightly simpler version) from something like 30 years ago, and it still works perfectly. I know people who stock up on these for the future.
Now onto design. I have written about it before, but it is amazing how much design you can do using vary basic formula  ohms law, basic formulas for inductance, capacitance. You can do a first pass model of a transistor as a device that in linear mode will do anything at the collector to make sure the emitter base voltage is 0.65 volts. Sounds too simple, but most of the time, it is all you need for a first pass design. Then you can add corrections for more accurate approximations and still not touch the textbook equations for a transistor. Using the basics, I often end up doing my own calculations and coming up with the same results as the data sheet formulas.
In fact I see a great big equation in the datasheet, I am likely to think "how can I trust that?" and just ignore it. I need to understand my design.
Being able to use Laplace transformations is one of the big breakthroughs, but there is a catch. Laplace Transforms are the key to AC circuit design. The initial explanations and derivations unfortunately are horrendous for a dyslexic, but once you understand that an inductor = sL and a capacitor = 1/sC, and see how to use it, you dump the textbook stuff totally. Trouble is without wading though the textbook derivations of the Laplace transform results, I am not sure how you can get any understanding of it.
Now as far as learning the mathematics, there is a site that I think is one of the most brilliant sites I have seen on the internet, outside the eevblog.com site of course.
http://www.khanacademy.org/ (http://www.khanacademy.org/)
Give it a go. So basically if you can get really, really good at using the really basic equations (and understand them at the same time) you can go a very long way.
Richard.

Yes, very brave of you to talk openly of your problem like that. It should not be easy to deal with...
I, for myself, can't see 3D, and at the same time, have some problems with distances.
I know what it is to live with some sort of handicap.
I don't really have an answer to your problem, but just wanted to tell you not to give up on your hobby. Pretty sure someone here will find something that'll be easier for you to work with.

By the way, the book by Ronald D Davis "The Gift of Dyslexia" is probably worth a read. Dyslexia is not necessarily a problem (though it may feel like it is)  it is just a difference in the way the mind handles information.
The differences in the way you can process information can be a huge asset, if you can learn to develop it.

I don't know about you, but I have a more rare form math problems I've never heard off. Am I the only one?
I have read a lot about people who can't understand numbers, but I struggle to grasp not numbers but symbolic math.
An equation says absolutely nothing to my mind until I graph it!
To understand that x/(x^2) eventually tends to zero on infinity, I HAVE to visualize the 2 graphs in my mind as a picture and notice x^2 grows much faster, I can't grasp it any other way.
The only way I've manged to keep going (slowly) on school/university is to associate strings of text from equations with pictures of its graphs, and thanes brings me even to another problem on EE: I just cant memorize formulas, they make absolute no sense in my mind. I memorize them as "stings" off spoken text, say them on my mind and write them on a piece of paper before I can start to manipulate it.
I'm even the only one on my course who has to write something as simple ohms law every time in order to rearrange it. The other way I can do it it to imagine me writing V=RI on paper and then visually move I under V to solve for R, but most of the time it takes me longer because I have to do it mentally 2 or 3 times because I start to doubt if I did it right.
However I have no problems reading, but I have problems handwriting at a decent speed, I do it much slower than average, but I type faster than average on a keyboard...
Do you know any similar cases?
About calculators, the easiest for me is a graphing calculator or software as matlab/octave where you can enter the whole thing as you write it on paper.
Symbolic math's a bitch and are doomed to live with it forever...
But not everything is so dark on EE, sometimes something like a Smith Chart appears that takes the whole hard math problem into a visual thing you do with a square and a compass!
I've thought about seeking help from a psychiatrist/shrink but since they don't go trough symbolic math, calculus, etc I don't think they would understand what I'm talking about in order to provide me with any technique to overcome it.
However, when it comes to difficulty with numbers I think they might help, since they distinguish it from dyslexia, they call it dyscalculia.

@ amspire, I agree completely about RPN, I have been using it since the first hp25c and had every other hp calculator up to the 48gx (still my favorite). RPN seemed a little strange at first but after the first day I could never go back. Algebraic entry is impossible to use after all these years ( I feel dyslexic when trying to use it).

Definitely a fan of RPN, but I'm not sure it would help the OP though.
My old 11C has had a hard life, but still works. I miss using my old 48SX (still have it, but it's broken). Picked up a 50G and set it for RPN, but it doesn't have the same "feel" as the others (light weight, key's are quite the same, and it's a battery hog).

I just reread your original post and have some questions.
Do you get other things confused like reading a resistor value from a colour code on the resistor or is it just numerals?
Do you find black text on white paper harder then, say white text on black? Did you have the same problem at school reading chalk numbers off a blackboard?
Do you jumble the order of numerals while a number is in your head or is it only jumbled going from paper to your mind?
If you do not confuse colours, then just get a set of coloured pencils that match the resistor colour code. In a data sheet mark all the spec values you are interested in. Then grab your black pencil and underline all the zero's. Next underline the 1's with brown, and so on. If you do this reasonably regularly for a few weeks, you mind will just naturally associate the numerals with colours, and it may be that even if you can confuse 633 with 363, it may be that it is impossible for you to confuse 633 with 363 once you mind is trained to think "six is blue" and "blue is six". The wrong thing just will not look right to you.
The black characters on white is an interesting one as we cannot see black. We only see the white. For most people, we ask the brain to see the black characters and it somehow muddles through, but I know that sometimes as a dyslexic, if you ask your brain to do something that doesn't make sense it fights you. One way to get people to improve their visual ability focus on typeface on paper is to get them to practice seeing the white around characters rather then the characters, and it might work for you. Stops the brain from panicking as it tries to understand a nonsensical command.
If you have no problem when the number is in your head, it is not hard to learn to do 3 and 4 digit additions and multiplications in your head faster then you can do it in a calculator. There are lots of lessons available  probably some on youtube  and the only barrier to learning it is our lazyness. The thing is once you get good at mental calculations, then when you get back to the calculator, you will know when you have made a mistake as the result wont make sense.
Final suggestion is at times I have found MathCad brilliant. This is a sheet on which you set up the equations for something you are designing, and then it calculates live. You change a number, and it recalculates everything. It allows you to set up the equations separately from the numbers. You end up with a perfectly documented design that you can print like a textbook page.
MathCad and Mathematica are expensive, but there are freeware alternatives like SMathStudio http://www.smathstudio.com/ (http://www.smathstudio.com/)
It just makes it easier to fix your numeric typing errors without having to start again.
Richard.

I don't know about you, but I have a more rare form math problems I've never heard off. Am I the only one?
I have read a lot about people who can't understand numbers, but I struggle to grasp not numbers but symbolic math.
An equation says absolutely nothing to my mind until I graph it!
To understand that x/(x^2) eventually tends to zero on infinity, I HAVE to visualize the 2 graphs in my mind as a picture and notice x^2 grows much faster, I can't grasp it any other way.
I think this is how mathematicians work. Mathematics is all about visualizing pictures and patterns in the mind. Looking at symbols on a page is like trying to understand Shakespeare by reading a dictionary. That's not what literature is all about.
The only way I've manged to keep going (slowly) on school/university is to associate strings of text from equations with pictures of its graphs, and thanes brings me even to another problem on EE: I just cant memorize formulas, they make absolute no sense in my mind. I memorize them as "stings" off spoken text, say them on my mind and write them on a piece of paper before I can start to manipulate it.
I'm even the only one on my course who has to write something as simple ohms law every time in order to rearrange it. The other way I can do it it to imagine me writing V=RI on paper and then visually move I under V to solve for R, but most of the time it takes me longer because I have to do it mentally 2 or 3 times because I start to doubt if I did it right.
"Visually moving I under V to solve for R" is again how mathematicians work. When I was at school I amazed some of my friends by rearranging quite complex formulas in my mind in exactly that way and just writing down the result while they were laboriously going through the "divide both sides by I" on paper. If you practice you can get really good at this and stop doubting yourself. It's just the same as learning how to be good at mental arithmetic by seeing pictures of numbers dancing around in your mind.
Myself, I can never remember whether it is "I = V/R" or "I = R/V" and so I always start with "V = IR" and reshuffle it in my mind to make sure.
Don't let anyone kid you that memorizing formulas is what you are "supposed" to be good at. Nothing could be further from the truth. The formula memorizers are going to be the least inductive and the least intuitive people in the class. They will get lost when facing a complex problem.
However I have no problems reading, but I have problems handwriting at a decent speed, I do it much slower than average, but I type faster than average on a keyboard...
Do you know any similar cases?
About calculators, the easiest for me is a graphing calculator or software as matlab/octave where you can enter the whole thing as you write it on paper.
Symbolic math's a bitch and are doomed to live with it forever...
But not everything is so dark on EE, sometimes something like a Smith Chart appears that takes the whole hard math problem into a visual thing you do with a square and a compass!
I've thought about seeking help from a psychiatrist/shrink but since they don't go trough symbolic math, calculus, etc I don't think they would understand what I'm talking about in order to provide me with any technique to overcome it.
However, when it comes to difficulty with numbers I think they might help, since they distinguish it from dyslexia, they call it dyscalculia.
I would say, congratulations, you are normal!
Work on your visualization skills and practice them until you get really good at picturing things. You will end up light years ahead of everyone else.

With credit card numbers, once you have entered it, it's very easy to use the mouse to highlight the 8 middle numbers. This makes it very easy to see, and check, the numbers in blocks of 4. The highlight edge gives you a separator at either the start or end of each block of 4.
Hey, that's a neat idea. It beats my method of entering the number with spaces first and then deleting the spaces afterwards.
But I still want to reeducate the idiots that force you to enter card numbers on forms without spaces. I swear most of the people who do web programming have the IQ of an amoeba.

some good advice there.PStevenson has and does design circuits he's said before in other posts.he's not a beginer.

When I was a little boy hacking computers, numbers seemed more manageable for example viewing a file list containing the size in bytes of each file. Recently, while manipulating a collection of hires photos and videos, I've find I'm having to highlight groups of 3 decimals with the bigger video files to fathom the weight of the numbers.
Considering adding insert comma features to some of my scripts. Hate those "human readable" display options even more however.

Do not worry about your problems with mathematics, I assure you mine are far greater

alot of good information here thankyou so much for answering in the ways you have, I had one tutor back in school just say "if you can't do mathematics then you may aswell give up with electronics"
@amspire
I can read the colour codes on resistors pretty fast, I can spot identify them that way, however I have some precision resistors with the values printed on them which always prove to be a pain in the arse.
the numbers get jumbled in my head no matter what colour the text/paper was originally
the MathCad thing you suggested sounds interesting it may not address the issue of jumbled numbers (I doubt anything will) but I imagine it will be alot easier than my current method of screaming at the screen when I keep getting different answers to the same piece of math.
I've watched a few vids from khan academy  it's really good and I'll definitely be viewing more of them.
sometimes I have used the resistor colour code in order to substitute numbers, for example when I'm out shopping and I'm trying to work out what is a better deal two for one would be kept in my mind better substituted by red for brown however as you can imagine this method is very slow when it comes to anything more than simple day to day stuff plus people think I'm mental when I say things like it cost £green yellow
@Greg323i I'm blind in one eye and from what I understand is that with using coloured lenses they'd need to interact with each other or would they work in just the one eye?
@blofeld I love the work of Jim Williams specifically because he explains things enough that you can work it out without the equations and numbers
I am planning to get the reissued hp15c because even though I have such difficulty, I love calculators and I've wanted one ever since I had one given to me when I was a kid from an engineer relative of mine but it got stolen when I went to school by some bastard.

@Greg323i I'm blind in one eye and from what I understand is that with using coloured lenses they'd need to interact with each other or would they work in just the one eye?
The last site was for the coloured lenses, which she says should work even if you completely blind in one eye. But that's only part of it. The behavioural optometry is a holistic approach to vision. It seems that most optometrists only deal with the eye, but the behavioural optometrists treat the whole system. It's difficult for me to explain it as it involves mechanics of anatomy that I don't fully comprehend, but her practice deals with many children with learning difficulties and she tells me great stories of kids that she's seen over the years. She also has adult patients with the same problems and brain injuries that are helped greatly. I will admit that it's not a miracle and there's a lot of hard work involved in some of the exercises, but the people that put in the effort seem to be greatly helped and she has a very loyal client base.
It might be worth it to find an optometrist from the BABO site and see if they have anything to offer you. Couldn't hurt. The colourimetry might help too, but the behavioural optometry will probably help.
I really feel strange giving this advice as I'm not a medico or anything and I really don't want to oversell something that I don't fully understand. I know that my wife has helped people and I would be stoked if this info could help someone else.
Oh, and don't give up electronics! There are plenty of people around that are willing to lend a hand!

@greg don't worry about that, the day I give up electronics is the day I give up breathing, it's been a part of my life since I was one, found my dads screwdriver and took apart his expensive radio (something which he likes to remind me of all the time)
I will certainly look into your suggestion and of course all of the suggestions I've gotten and any further ones that come  it would be interesting to find other people in this field with the same issues but so far I haven't.
@Mechatrommer regarding Einsteins quote  it is all relative :)

anyone have trouble with red and orange on resistors ?

I very often have trouble with red and brown especially on old ones that have been hot. I also have trouble reading screens and often have to print of a document to read it, If I write a letter I always print it as I seem unable to spot all the mistakes on screen, and cannot get on with e reader's. We are all human and designers of equipment should remember this in their designs.

anyone have trouble with red and orange on resistors ?
I sometimes did and I worried about it for a while but I asked a few friends to identify them and it turned out to be crappy band paint on the resistors cause they were wanhunglo haha

anyone have trouble with red and orange on resistors ?
Depends on the manufacturers. For me, on some, red is very difficult to distinguish from orange on some, on others, blue or brown are to close to black.

i have to look through a loupe that helps if its on a board.bit dodgy measuring in circuit

The problem with colored bands is usually much worse on the blue(ish) metal film resistors. Colors on carbon film resistors are usually much easier to read in my opinion, especially for cheap ones. Probably because it has little effect on the colors if the opacity of the paint is insufficient.

For me red glasses do help enormously, i can read and do math 10 times longer using them, and without being so tierd of doing it.
Interesting, i wonder if illuminating the room with only red leds would work in the same way.
Sounds like a good reason to build some RGB room lighting :)
Could try other colors as well.

For me red glasses do help enormously, i can read and do math 10 times longer using them, and without being so tierd of doing it.
Interesting, i wonder if illuminating the room with only red leds would work in the same way.
Sounds like a good reason to build some RGB room lighting :)
Could try other colors as well.
I am of the age when certain folks thought that putting mad kids in rooms with special coloured lights and paint would calm us down a bit. Didn't work. Then they tried to blame the red cordial. All we wanted to do was to play with gadgets and read about those gadgets.
Now that I am a cranky old grey beard, I see I soon might need to make use of glasses for reading and perhaps also with rose coloured lenses.
>:(
;)