I think this thread
might be of some help to anyone having this same issue.
specifically though, for runlevel 3 "startx"-ers, it appears this might be a quick fix:
For the following, you need a program called numlockx
For starting X from the console i.e. via startx, stick the following in `$HOME/.xinitrc` (note the path to the numlockx program may be different for your distro):
have yet to try it myself, and it seems like I've read about simpler methods, but the info is never around when you need it, huh?