Accounting and dyscalculia/dyslexia, where do I stand?
I touched on this before but felt it deserved its own post; can you suffer from dyscalculia and be an accountant? Yes, Yes, triple Yes!!!
What is it?
I will start by saying frustratingly there is not a universally agreed definition of Dyscalculia and unfortunately research into it has not been as well funded or developed as it has for Dyslexia.
Of the different descriptions of Dyscalculia I prefer the DSM-5 definition which is:
“DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) characterises Dyscalculia as: ‘a condition that affects the ability to acquire mathematical skills. Dyscalculia learners may have difficulty understanding simple number concepts, lack an intuitive grasp of numbers, and have problems learning number facts and procedures. Even if they produce a correct answer or use a correct method, they may do so mechanically and without confidence.”
(Please note that Dyscalculia is not the same as Maths Anxiety; a separate blog about this is here: https://brainthrough.co.uk/2019/12/14/24-accounting-and-maths-anxiety/
I have not heard Dyscalculia mentioned much in the mainstream TV, however my face did grimace when I saw an awful and I truly mean an awful! display of people views of Dyscalculia.
I was watching a TV game shows and one of the contestants mentioned she suffered from dyscalculia, she then tried to explain it to the host and other contestants and appallingly she was mocked and they basically said “there’s no such thing” and implied people like her, like myself who have this are thick (UK slang for dumb), it was hard to watch but more importantly it reflected my own experiences when I could not do “simple” mental arithmetic or I could never understand algebra etc.
Why Dyscalculia won’t stop you in accounting?
A common worry that dyscalculia suffers have is mental arithmetic, there is a gripping fear that someone will ask you to mentally calculate bonkers sums and you can’t and you feel stupid, well I want you to know this; there are no such things as a non-calculator paper in professional accounting exams! and that’s for a reason; accounting despite popular belief is not strictly about mathematics it is about rules; the hardest part is grasping these rules which are less maths based than you think, they are more about logical order (although sometimes it will feel illogical). Most calculations accountants do; are done via accounting systems and MS Excel; are there times that being good at mental maths would help? of course! But does struggling with it mean you can’t have a career in accounting? No, there is nothing to stop you using a calculator/Excel!
As an accountant you will do a lot of reconciliations, that will have you scratching your head; not because of mathematical difficulties, but because you have to figure out how on earth something has gone wrong!
In terms of dyslexia, don’t ever let this put you off, it may hinder your ability to pick things up initially as quickly as your peers but it will not stop you at all, don’t worry about your spelling mistakes either, there are high chances are you will be using MS word or MS Outlook, if you need to write a report or email, these programs come with aids to help with spelling and grammar and if it helps most of my accounting tutors were crap at spelling and grammar (as am I).
Studying AAT and/or ACCA?
I can’t speak on the other accounting qualifications as I’ve not done them personally and I’ll refrain from talking about AAT as its been a while since I completed it.
I know you may worry about getting qualified but don’t, accounting exams are done in such a way they don’t penalise you for having one or both, so if you want to be an accountant, please don’t be discouraged! be prepared for ACCA papers such as F2 F5, F9, P4 and P5 as these have a heavy focus on mathematical side of accounting, keep in mind that only papers F2, F5 and F9 are mandatory whilst P4 and P5 are optional, there is a case for F6 and P6 but these are more rule based than raw number crunching.
As someone who lives with this I want to tell you; first you are not dumb and secondly you can do this career or any other career you so wish! you will face hard times no doubt, as a consoling point nearly everyone I know found at least the studying portion of accounting hard, including those without dyscalculia/dyslexia, so it’s not just you.
I also have a post on Anxiety and Depression: