Mental Images: why I can’t spell, but can do do math very well.


I have been tutoring high school students in science and math for 45 years. A couple of years ago I stumbled on an fascinating discovery: discussing with a student who was struggling with math, we for some reason talked about whether she could “see” the math problem, the steps that needed to be done. She said she could not. I commented that I do – it’s like a road map that I instinctively create and “see” or “visualize” what steps need to be done. 

Further discussing, I asked if she was a good speller, because I am not. She said she was. I asked if when she is spelling a word she “sees” the word. She said yes! It appears like on a screen in front of her forehead.

amazing: when I try to spell, on the other hand, my screen is blank!!

I have had this math ability and lack of spelling ability as long as I can remember, early grade school. 

I have always thought that anyone can learn math, be good at it, with the right amount of Tutoring  (such as from me!); there are no math “dummies”.

However, I am no longer so sure. I thought my observations were quite an insight and discovery.  But I now know that others have made similar observations, from today’s New York Times article on aphantasia.  It therefore appears likely that there is more to successful learning then meets the eye. 

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