The Secret

There is an ancient secret not spoken among many adults today. The secret is personal and, to so many, embarrassing. It involves a learning problem, an inability to understand numbers during the formative years in elementary school. But it's more than a learning problem. It's also a learning solution.


It's a clandestine story of how thousands, maybe millions, of children overcame the difficulty of understanding numbers as abstractions during a time when rote fact memorization was the only accepted path to success. Without telling anyone, these frustrated children invented ways to put invisible dots on numbers. It was finger counting without fingers.

This is also Dianne Noble's story. Now an adult, Dianne shared a heartrending email with TouchMath's founder and CEO, Jan Bullock, a message that dredges up the hidden past.

Dianne struggled with math as a child, and to suggest that she felt humiliated is an understatement. Her third grade teacher advised Dianne's parents not to expect much from the young girl; she likely would not finish school with her peers. Dianne often cried with frustration over her learning difficulties.

One day when she was about 8 years old, Dianne looked at the numeral 3 and saw something in her mind's eye. This number had three obvious dots. Then she looked at the numeral 4 and saw four dots. Without guidance or help, she worked through all the numerals to discover a counting method. Dianne had discovered liberation, a way to break through conceptual barriers. She also had a new secret she couldn't share, rightfully fearing censure and rejection.

"I never told a living soul what I was doing," offered Dianne. "I worked my way through all the numbers, and found I could use patterns within the numbers to help me add almost as fast as everyone else." But she couldn't tell anyone...Shhhh! "I thought my method was not the way everyone else was doing it, and I would be belittled for counting on numbers."

Flash forward 30 years. Dianne is a college graduate, having matriculated from high school with her peers and then finished in the top five of her college graduating class. Throughout her academic career, including college, Dianne used her secret counting method.

Now she is the mother of a "wonderfully intelligent son" who also was struggling with math when he was, ironically, 8 years old. So this resolute mother broke her code of silence and shared the secret with her son Blake. She taught him her own idiosyncratic counting method. Sure enough, a light flipped on inside Blake's head. "Suddenly for the first time in his life he was able to achieve something he thought he never could," explains Dianne.

Blake, unlike his mother, was less reticent about sharing the secret. The gregarious child demonstrated the counting patterns to anyone who paid attention. A family friend suggested to Blake that he was using TouchMath.

When Dianne heard about this comment, she jumped on the Internet to find TouchMath's homepage. "I found the Web site and sat there once again trying to hold back tears, but this time, tears of joy. It was like going back in time and giving that little girl worth."

Dianne found more than TouchMath; she discovered validation. "That secret place inside my head, that place I had kept hidden, was suddenly acceptable and even desirable. It was honestly like that lost little girl had been found."

She completed her earnest email message to Jan Bullock by expressing much gratitude. But, quite honestly, we believe Dianne deserves the largest measure of gratitude.

Her story is boundless. Thousands, maybe millions, have a similar secret from childhood. They discovered on their own something similar to what Jan Bullock and her team eventually formalized: a multisensory Touching/Counting math program that accelerates learning.

In Dianne's words to Jan, "It is wonderful that you are giving teachers the ability to find other lost children and help them through the confusion and isolation that can leave them feeling so alone."

You were never alone, Dianne. You were always in very good company when you were a frustrated child struggling and experimenting to find a path to math literacy. You just didn't know it.

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