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How to Teach Math to Children With ADD

By Elise Wile ; Updated August 14, 2017

Math is a subject that requires concentration to achieve mastery of a concept or procedure. Understandably, children with ADHD, otherwise known as Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, often have a difficult time in math class, and frequently fall behind. These students struggle with organization, impulse control and have difficulty paying attention to details. This inhibits their ability to demonstrate what they know, even though they may be quite intelligent. As a teacher, you can help your students with ADHD be more successful in math class by being aware of how they learn and making classroom and teaching modifications to assist them.

  1. Provide graph paper to students with ADHD. Show them how they can use each box to represent a number, space or operational sign. This helps students with ADHD do more accurate work, as many have difficulties writing math problems in a legible format.

  2. Teach ADHD students a procedure for completing each type of math problem. Teach the steps of the procedure over a period of a few days, if possible. For example, for long division problems, teach students to do the first step and practice that step on five problems. Then teach the second step and have students practice the first two steps. Teach in this manner until ADHD students have thoroughly memorized the procedure for the calculation you are teaching.

  3. Allow ADHD students to use calculators to complete math problems that involve several calculations. ADHD students often make small errors in calculation--using the wrong operational sign is common--and can better focus on the problem-solving aspect of math when they do not have to focus their energies on the physical act of writing out the problem and doing each calculation correctly. Word problems are an example of when the use of a calculator may be appropriate.

  4. Use manipulatives in your math classroom whenever possible. Students with ADHD can often focus better when they can use their hands to perform a task. Manipulatives allow the student to see math problems in a different way, and the ADHD student’s illegibility will not work against him when he is able to learn and practice mathematical concepts in this manner.

  5. Seat ADHD students close to the whiteboard or overhead projector screen. ADHD students have a difficult time filtering out additional visual stimuli and will be able to focus better if the examples are directly in front of them.

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