The Story of My Life Questions and Answers
by Helen Keller

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How did Helen learn arithmetic?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Helen mentions that she always struggled with arithmetic and found it to be the most uninteresting subject. Initially, Miss Sullivan taught Helen how to count by stringing beads together in groups, and Helen learned to add and subtract by arranging kindergarten straws. Later on, Helen visits Hulton, Pennsylvania, where Mr. Lions is able to help her with arithmetic. However, Helen mentions that she continued to randomly guess on the majority of math problems. Unlike other subjects, Helen finds math uninteresting and difficult to understand. Helen continues to struggle with mathematics and found it challenging to grasp algebra and geometry. Fortunately, Mr. Keith helps Helen overcome her obstacles in math, and she begins to comprehend algebraic and geometric concepts. While Helen is able to pass her math courses, she never excels in the area of mathematics like she does in other subjects.

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Although interested in most subjects, Keller states in her memoir that she was not particularly fascinated by arithmetic. Miss Sullivan did, however, feel compelled to instruct her in it. She taught it to her young pupil first by using beads to help Helen learn to count. Miss Sullivan then arranged straws so that Helen could learn to add and subtract. Helen notes that she did not have much patience for this activity.

Later, when Miss Sullivan and Keller were visiting the Wade family in Hulton, Pennsylvania, they discovered that the neighbor, Mr. Iron, could teach Helen Latin. They hired him to give her Latin lessons, and he was also able to help her with her arithmetic. All the same, Helen still continued to find arithmetic an uninteresting endeavor.

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