Origins of the concept
Whilst using” the who” from Communication Awareness, Bramble R, 2004,Janus Publishing I became aware of the importance for school students being regarded as “similar” rather than “different.”
Students were coming to me for all sorts of reasons but the common theme was the imbalance between being similar and different.
I began to realise that many social work theories concentrate on difference rather than putting difference in the context of similarity.
Government policy was also concentrating on difference although there were people in communities who were striving for similarity eg the concept that a child with disabilities is a child first and disabled second.
Also consider the “Sure start” projects which had been set up as separate from school nurseries and playgroups yet again they were highlighting difference.
At the time of originally writing this in 2006 I was working in a school with 13-18 year old students who come to see me because they found it hard to cope with things at school, home or both.
The Concept of Mathematical Counselling
The idea of mathematical counselling is that you take the elements from “the who” diagram [ see below] and consider how they impact on your life and the people who surround you. You then start with 100% and look at what percentages the strongest identified negative elements have on you.
For example I had a student who looked at the element “age”. She considered her chronological age of 17 compared to her idea of her intellectual age and her physical age. She put herself as 40 for her intellectual age and 7/8 for her physical age. We were then able to look together at why she described herself in this way and what impact this had on her 100% in terms of being similar to other students. After exploring she began to cope a lot more with her differences and was tested for Asbergers so that she could understand her difference. We also worked out what she could add to her life to make her more similar and she started a band with another student . The change in this student happened over a period of two months and yet she had been stuck in her world of difference for years. This lead to dramatically increased happiness.
Another student came to student services on a regular basis feeling that she couldn’t cope in lessons. We sat together and mathematically dissected what was making her not cope and thus different. We considered her life as 100% and what percentage this difference was having on her life. She began to realise that 90% of her life was really good and so we then considered how we could not let the 5% that was really awful continue to make her feel and act different. By coming out of the lessons regularly she was making herself different. We split the one- hour lessons into quarter hour slots. She then recorded by ticks and crosses how she coped with the lessons. We then looked at the whole week and she began to realise that percentage wise she was only different for a small percentage of her time and that if she counted to ten frequently during the small percentage she could cope with the whole lesson.
I think that mathematics really can help anyone to bring back balance into their lives and that perhaps the idea of mathematical counselling could be brought into social work. Certainly considering young people who they are and who they want to be is strongly about similarity.
This is only a starting point.
I would be interested in others views on this as I believe that Government policy is crucially wrong by highlighting often publicly people’s differences rather than realising that by using a mathematical formula they could help them to be similar thus happy, productive members of society.
I really believe that most people can only cope with a small percentage of being different and for small periods of time.