My Dyscalculia Journey by Candice from Mother Cuppa
Candice discovered she had dyscalculia later in her life. A successful entrepreneur and business founder of organic herbal tea company Mother Cuppa, yes - it’s an intentional play on words, Candice spoke to Cat about her experiences of dyscalculia and how it shaped her life.
In fact, at one point her life could have been very different. As a child, Candice wanted to study ballet and passed a competitive entrance exam to get into ballet school aged 11. But her parents believed this wasn’t the right path for her - the scholarship would require a lot of work and they were concerned that she wouldn’t cope with that work level. The system of learning ballet by day and studying academic subjects by night wouldn’t have suited someone like her. Though, Candice admits, she often wonders how her life would be different if her parents had chosen to send her.
Instead, Candice attended a school where she really struggled with maths yet never received any help. She described how everyone gave her the impression that she was ‘just a bit thick at maths’ and it was assumed that she would never pass her GCSE in Maths.
Candice internalised these attitudes and so maths became a source of anxiety for her. She always felt she was a bit inadequate compared to others and so wanted to get out of doing maths – so much so that she remembers paying a friend in Smarties to do her maths homework. With all that negativity and her own lack of motivation, it was a hardly a surprise, Candice admitted, when she didn’t pass her maths GCSE.
After she finished school, she did an apprenticeship in Early Years which led to a degree. However, it wasn’t really what she wanted. It was what her parents wanted. However, her maths problems were to return as she couldn’t complete her teacher training degree without passing GCSE maths or Functional Skills Maths.
The college had suggested she took Functional Skills Maths. But, Candice explained, it was a huge struggle for her. And she was very lucky because the teacher quickly suggested that she might have dyscalculia and was very supportive. Her colleagues really supported to her too. With them, Candice was able to ‘have a bit of a laugh about it’ and not take maths so seriously.
Yet, Candice said, she still doesn’t know her times tables and she couldn’t read a clock until she was 16 even though her parents got her lots of different watches. She worked really really hard to pass the exam and it wasn’t easy. But she did. And she went on to be an Early Years teacher.
When she was a teacher, she could always quickly identify which children were struggling because she could notice the signs from her own experiences with maths. ‘It is really important for teachers to be empathetic of their students,’ Candice emphasised. ‘In fact, my number one tip for teachers would be to be empathetic: to be able to understand where people are coming from and give them support in all the things. Children should be made to feel confident and happy because at the end of the day, every parent wants their child to be happy. It's the most important thing.’
She also tried to work on the students’ strengths, because there's lots of things that somebody can be and the school system can prevent people from achieving their full potential because of all the exams. ‘Success in set exams doesn’t always and shouldn’t influence success in life’, Candice said.
Her family know that she has dyscalculia although she hasn’t ever felt the need to get diagnosed. For Candice, knowing herself that she ‘ticks all the boxes’ (e.g. she struggles with time, with budgeting, with money, and with direction) is enough. She has come to terms with accepting herself, although still has times when the self-doubt and anxiety kicks in. She says her family are supportive and her 18 year-old daughter even helps her with maths sometimes!
In fact, as a parent, Candice added that it is important to accept your child and know that they really are going to be okay. The most important thing they are going be okay and that, if they struggle with maths, then this is just one aspect of their life, and they will find a work around.
Candice has herself found a number of work arounds and tips that help her with her maths. She said that she's now working with a bookkeeper, because she tried to ‘do her books ‘and she's really good at getting the whole picture of a business, but she finds it hard to deal with the everyday numbers. One particular problem is that she can misread or transpose numbers – for example, she may might 430 four, which can cause some problems.
In particular, her husband is very supportive and a great help. He helps her with maths when she doesn't know how to do it. However, they can both sometime feel frustrated when he sends her an Excel spreadsheet and she manages to mess up his work- ‘I still doesn’t understand Excel!’, Candice added.
Dyscalculia also comes into her hobby of playing hockey, but she doesn’t allow this to deter her. She sometimes has to tell the referee about dyscalculia because when she is told she has to be 5 yards away, she can’t conceptualise this distance. She also struggles with direction, but her teammates are understanding and kind. She often has to say, ‘Look, I’m not trying to get away with something. I just don't know where 5 yards away is!’
Generally though, she doesn’t feel the need to talk about her maths difficulties as she has work arounds – says it may take her a really long way around but she will always gets there. She has also realised that she had entrepreneurial skills and that she could play to her strengths.
With her husband, Candice now runs a three million plus transport company, as well as her own business Mother Cuppa – which is now nearly a year old!
She had to pass a transport manager qualification for the business she runs with her husband, and there were lots of questions related to sorting out the times of the bus routes, diesel usage - and especially questions about time differences in Europe which she found very hard. She was allowed to take a clock into the exam because without the magnetic clock, Candice believes she wouldn’t have been able to pass. Candice says she is much more confident to ask for these measures now as she is a leader of a big business.
Her dyscalculia has always impacted her work and life. But not always in negative ways, Candice belives it makes her try harder and be more determined to do well and be successful – only now does she feel she is doing things for herself rather than to prove something.
Even though there may be times when you reflect on why you have dyscalculia and why it is hard for you, she believes that you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it. Candice’s own business, Mother Cuppa, is entrepreneurial and she didn't want to rely on her husband to do all the accounts. So Candice actually did all the groundwork and found out all the pricing herself. It takes her much longer than it would most people, but she is determined to try and she gets to the answers.
It is the same with her business – while her husband might have to tidy up her plans at the end – Candice know it was all down to her hard work, and she's really proud of it.
Candice’s top tips for an adult with dyscalculia is to own it and accept it. Do not feel shy to ask or reach out for help when you need it because you deserve it and do not let it limit your ambitions. Everyone has unique strengths and you can lean in to those to get where you want or need to be. We must always push ourselves, she believes, in fact Candice shared a motto that has ‘served her well over the years’– ‘if you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got’.
Candice ended her interview by telling us how we need to talk more about dyscalculia as a society. If we identify people earlier and more carefully then they can get the support they need. For her part, Candice would be happy to use her platform to open up conversations because it might inspire someone else and give them confidence.
Candice's website is -
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