Published on ADDitudeMag.com
18 Tips for Sharpening Your Child’s Math Skills
Teachers and parents can use these strategies to give their child the knowledge and tools to excel.
Shorter Is Better
Avoid overtaxing an ADHD child’s
focus by assigning him every second, third, or fourth math problem, not all of
them. Make sure that the problems you do assign address the math skills
you want him to master. Use the same principle for homework assignments.
Keep Sample Problems Front and Center
Keep a step-by-step model of
a problem on the board, listing the steps taken for solving it. Some students
with ADHD have working memory problems and can’t hold the problem in mind as
they look back and forth from the board. Write the same problem in the same
spot everyday. Number (don’t use letters) the steps in the order they are to be
Ease Word Problem Challenges
Word problems are tough for
everyone, but especially for kids with ADHD. Make word problems more concrete
and visual to help them meet the challenge. Have them…
> circle needed facts in
> X out any unnecessary
> Underline the strategy
or phrase (“How much did she spend?”)
Jog the Memory
Use mnemonics (acronyms) to
help students remember what math operation to do when. Use Please Excuse My
Dear Aunt Sally (PEMDAS) to help them solve problems that have parentheses and
other operations (Parentheses first, Exponents next, Multiply
or Divide from left to right, Add or Subtract from left to
right). Dumb Monkeys Sell Bananas (Divide, Multiply, Subtract,
Bring Down) can makes long division a snap.
Check for Errors Right Away
Parents and teachers should have
a student do a problem on a white board. Instruct her to hold it up when she’s
done to make sure that she did it correctly. It frustrates and demoralizes a
child to complete a page of problems only to find out that they are wrong.
Use Color to Increase Focus
Students with ADHD often
don’t notice when the operations sign changes from plus to minus. Before
beginning work on math problems, ask students to highlight key math operations.
Color addition signs yellow, subtraction signs pink, and so forth.
Keep Formulas and Facts Handy
Shrink multiplication tables
to a size that will fit in a student’s wallet. Allow her to use it when a
calculator is not permitted or is unavailable. Have the student keep a small
card with formulas written on it. These cards will trigger her memory when she important
Pair Up with a Student
Working with a classmate is
an effective way to master math concepts. Each child makes up a problem and
solves it, then hands a copy of the unsolved problem to his partner to solve.
If they come up with different answers to the same problem, they work to figure
Meds to the Rescue
If possible, schedule math
class when medication is at its peak. Work with school officials to schedule
the class about 1 to 1 ½ hours (if he’s taking a short-acting med) or 1 to 3
hours (if he’s taking a sustained-release medication) after the medication is
Create Manipulatives at Home
Have your child use uncooked
pasta, dried beans, or another household item to reinforce the concepts of
division, subtraction, and addition. Place 40 items on a table. Then ask your
child to divide them into 5 groups of 8—or subtract 10 and add back five.
Make Math Musical
Most children like to sing
along with tapes or CDs that set multiplication tables and other math concepts
to catchy tunes. To engage students further, come up with chants or class songs
set to familiar tunes.
Put Math on the Menu
If you are serving a snack,
such as cookies or grapes, ask your child to divide them equally among family
members as a quick multiplication/division problem. While at a grocery store,
practice converting ounces to pounds.
Set Up Shop
Open a classroom store/bank
in which students use checkbooks and transaction sheets for deposits and
withdrawals. Collect shopping circulars and allow students to shop in class.
Give them a set amount of money and have them recalculate their balance as they
Give Review Summaries for Exams
Review summaries are helpful
study aids for students with attention deficits. Summaries are even more
critical for parents who may help their student study for the test.
Neaten Up Sloppy Work
Kids with ADHD have a tough
time spacing out their work and calculations on assignments and tests, causing
them to make careless errors. Turn notebook paper sideways (with lines running
vertically rather than horizontally). This makes it easier for students to keep
numbers aligned in columns and reduces careless errors.
Give Extended Time on Tests
Some children with ADHD have
extreme difficulty memorizing basic math facts. This is not due to laziness.
Even if they do know their facts by memory, they choke and can’t perform on timed
tests. Allow students who can’t recall facts and write them down rapidly extra
time on tests. Also consider giving them credit if they can recite the facts
Get Tech Support
Use computer games to drill
and practice math skills. The games provide immediate feedback, and are fun,
non-threatening, and motivating to students. These games also hold the interest
of an ADHD student. Teachers can adjust the speed and level of difficulty to
keep kids on their toes.
Punch in the Numbers
using a calculator for class- and homework. It allows students to focus on
mastering concepts rather than struggling to remember math facts. Caution: Some
students become “calculator dependent,” and may not remember how to do the
basic problem. Review basic math skills periodically to make sure they know
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