24. Accounting and Maths Anxiety

Often you find tons of articles of people talking about something they have not been though due to their platform and voice these people end up becoming the face/voice of an issue they sympathise with but have never been through, which is frustrating.

You’re reading from someone who has battled with this as well as generally not being a very academic person; my maths issues started when I was in primary school, I couldn’t (and still can’t) do my times tables, I struggle with mental arithmetic especially division and being asked to answer maths question in front of the class often got me laughed at and teased.

Secondary school was about the same, no matter how hard I tried there were some things that were just beyond me; algebra being the number 1, it’s often said you use ‘algebra’ every day but you just don’t know it; well how about we teach it in the way I flipping use it every day or give me the option to drop algebra? Why? If I’m using it unknowingly and I can’t relate to the way you are teaching me it; I just don’t need it and even to this day; I don’t use algebra.

Triangles, shapes, volume again bulk of this I never use in my daily life currently or back then; it was useless to me this meant that maths was a tick box class for me; which consistently made me feel worthless and leaving secondary school with a E in Maths pretty tells everyone you are dumb, you can’t get on to so many schemes without at least a C, forget apprenticeship, entry level roles and in my case back then even a GCSE retake (needed a D for a retake), oh and university “bwahahahaha go and learn crayons your life is useless life” voices in my head.

To make things better in my day you had high, intermediate and foundation levels and the highest you could get in foundation was a D (useless grade); don’t forget the annual speech about how you would amount to nothing if you didn’t have good maths.

Taking this in at 16 just resulted in me being angry frustrated, without hope and thinking I would have to turn to crime to earn good money and get something out of this life.

My academic results also slaughtered a childhood dream of mine; working in Canary Wharf/Moorgate this started a new stem of maths insecurity which would later grow and cause me other issues down the line.

Still battling this problem along with several others now, my thoughts can run a million miles an hour when I am asked to calculate the difference between mark up and Margin? Despite going over these goodness knows how many times I often end up forgetting the maths rules like calculating percentages and hit a weird state where even after I have done the calculation I have to do it 20 more times as the worry of getting it wrong mounts.

For example:
Say you work for an app developer and want to sell your product on Apple, we know Apple takes 30% of the app’s sale i.e. if you sell an app for £5.00 Apple will take £1.50 (£5.00 * 0.30)
In this scenario a company may ask me what would we need to charge to cover the cost of Apple’s charge, anxiety kicks in now as I’m worried about making a fatal error due to my lack of confidence/knowledge in maths, this results to me either rushing an answer or avoiding giving one at all; the mistake I fear is I add £1.50 to the price, see below what that does:

30% Apple tax
£4.55 amount left for app seller

My error means I have not covered the cost.

The calculation should be:
£7.14 (£5.00 / (100 – 30) * 100 2dp (also known as Markup)
30% Apple tax
£5.00 amount left for app seller

Other people would make the mistake and forget about it; my brain would punish me for days on end and I would feel totally humiliated; I mean after all, what kind of accountant can’t account right?

Sadly the main concentration to fix this seems to be on children who have this; with adults omitted but I definitely believe I am not the only one who suffers from this.

If you’ve read this far let me start by saying; you can have a good career but it won’t be straight forward, like everything, the earlier you notice it the sooner you can work on it.

What the heck to do?
For me; I now have a list of formulas/calculations I often need on notes to shut down the over thinking and Excel is my friend, I used to do more maths daily which did help but then I dropped off doing them if nothing else I recommend this. I actively say “mental maths is not my thing” this took tons of pressure off, I’m still working on this but these were the bits that helped me most.
I have also stopped beating myself up over mistakes, and check my work, leave it for a bit then come back to it with a fresh set of eyes and where possible looking over it in the opposite direction I wrote it.

Rest assured
There are other accountants going through this; there used to be a page on the AAT forums about people going through dyscalculia; which in turn could trigger maths anxiety; you are not the only accountant going through this and when you think of the pressures on us to ‘get the numbers right and on time’ you can see how this could develop. 

I hope this helps and please don’t give up, you can get through it; it will be some work but it can be done; anything knew I learn I will post about it.


Image from: https://www.cne.psychol.cam.ac.uk/math-memory/what-is-mathematics-anxiety

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