Math Tricks: The Right Way to Teach Children with ADHD


My fourth-grader is having great difficulty learning the multiplication tables. We’ve tried many approaches, along with offering rewards, but nothing helps.


ADDitude Answers

If a child has ADHD or a learning disability, memory and other processing weaknesses — not a lack of motivation — are the reasons his brain can’t hold onto certain information. Try these resources:

  1. Times Tables the Fun Way ( is a mnemonic program that uses picture associations and clever stories to help kids remember.

  2. Teach Your Child the Multiplication Tables with Dazzling Patterns, Grids and Tricks ( helps kids identify patterns, so they can rely less on memory.

Practice one sequence of multiples at a time, until your child has mastered the facts. Engaging other senses can also help information “stick.” Have him type math facts in different fonts or trace them in sand.

Posted by Sandra Rief, M.A.
Author of How to Reach & Teach Children with ADD/ADHD

ADDitude Answers

We struggled a great deal with multiplication tables too. Going into 8th grade, my son still only has quick recall of about half the multiplication tables. It simply is what it is for him—in life he’ll have a calculator, so I’m not overly concerned.

We used a multiplication quizzing app/game on the iPad. Just 5-10 minutes a day, maybe 4 days a week. The app kept track of his progress and got harder as he did better.

Here are some additional helpful ideas:

> 9 Must-Have Learning Aids for ADHD Children (FOCABULARY sound awesome—I need to check that one out!)

> Math Apps Your Child Can Count On

> [[NewWindow(, 6 Memory Tricks for ADHD Students)]]

If it’s a real barrier to his academic success, you can ask for an accommodation that he have multiplication tables, formulas, etc accessible to him while doing math work.

Posted by Penny Williams
ADDconnect Moderator, Author on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen boy with ADHD, LDs, and autism

A Reader Answers

Timez Attack by [[NewWindow(, Big Brainz)]] is a good game.

Also, Mister Numbers by [[NewWindow(, Pattern Play Math)]] may be a fun way to learn. Look at his YouTube videos for examples.

Finally, the book “Five Times Five is Not Ten” workbook by [[NewWindow(, Longevity Publishing)]].

To start on a clean slate, I would purchase the workbook first, then follow it by the Timez Attack game.

Good luck with everything. My daughter is heading into the 9th grade and forgot a lot of her facts, so I we refreshed it with the Timez Attack game. Now we need to focus on fractions (adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing).

Posted by dmebrown

A Reader Answers

I was a staff assistant with a very bright young man who didn’t know his multiplication tables as a freshman in high school. He was in an algebra/trig class. I was there for behavior help rather than academic. My question to you is does your son understand what it means to multiply? If he understands the concepts well, you may decide that this is not a battle you want to fight, and get the accommodation of being able to use a calculator in every math class.

Posted by whizinc

A Reader Answers

My response is so simple and yet not easy! Repetition, repetition, repetition. Math is VERY difficult for my child due to her memory issues, so she requires many more repetitions of the tasks. Back in 3rd grade when she was learning her multiplication tables, it was something we had to practice all year. We practiced a lot in the car. To this day at the age of 14, her teachers always comment on how solid her multiplication is. When it comes to memory issues, there’s no easy answer. It’s a lot of work, but practice, practice, practice!

Posted by

A Reader Answers

Have your son take notes by hand if possible. To get new information into working memory you need to involve multiple pathways of information processing in the brain. The more pathways you activate, the more the information will be integrated with information already learned and the more likely the information will be stored in long-term memory.

So in other words make math learning active - move, talk, write, etc.

1. Have your child sit in the front of the classroom so that he is less likely to “tune out” during class.

2. Get a day to day planner. Schedule when you are going to study with your child and then keep to it.

3. Study 1 mins per year of age. My son is 9 so really his effective studying rate is only about 10 mins. So he studies for 10 mins then relaxes for 10 - 20 mins then back to studying.

4. Break information down into learnable chunks. My son is also working on multiplication tables. He has to know through 12s. So we are working on 0 - 3 now. When he can say them without thinking we’ll work on 4 - 8, etc.

6. Get the largest white board that you can find/afford. Have your child draw multiplication tables on a piece of paper. It can be in fun, silly ways. When he has written a page for each multiplication table you are working on, then put it down for the day. Move onto to something else.

The reason I say put it down is because your child's brain will trick him into thinking that he already knows this information by virtue of the fact that it is in his “short-term” memory - it is not in long-term yet.

The next day or another day that week, go back to those sheets of papers. Take the first one out and turn it face down on the desk. Have your child go up to the white board, and draw out with markers what he had on that sheet of paper. While drawing it out, he should talk about it like he is explaining it to a friend who was absent from class the day this topic was taught. He will protest, he will feel stupid. But drawing and verbalizing are both active processes. You are utilizing two different pathways of analyzing information in the brain. The more pathways stimulated during learning, the more quickly the information is transferred to long-term memory.

Then turn the sheet of paper over and determine whether your child got all the information that was on that sheet of paper. Does he understand it? Could he explain it? If not, then erase the white board and try again. Once you feel he can do one table, move on to the next.

For math homework, my son and I work out a few math problems on the white board first. If he is confident he understands, he is on his own. He can do them on the white board and transfer them to homework paper, or do them directly on his homework paper depending on whether he feels confident he is doing it correctly.

Good luck!

Posted by faye

This question was asked on the ADDConnect forums. Read the original discussion here.

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Sandra Rief, M.A., is an educational consultant, speaker, and author of a number of books for parents and teachers on how to help students with ADHD succeed in school. Some of her books include How to Reach & Teach Children with ADD/ADHD, The ADD/ADHD Checklist, and The ADHD Book of Lists. She has trained thousands of educators through her workshops/seminars nationally and internationally on effective strategies and interventions for students with learning, attention, and behavioral challenges. A former award-winning special education teacher, from San Diego, California, Sandra is an instructor of continuing education online/distance learning courses for teachers on ADHD and Learning Disabilities through California State University, East Bayand Seattle Pacific University.
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