3rd Grader Struggling with Math Tests

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This topic contains 6 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  ADHDmomma 1 week, 5 days ago.

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  • #77410


    Hi All, I’m new to this forum and desperately need some help. My son was very recently diagnosed with ADHD although his Father (i’m divorced) thinks I’m inventing it. My son is in 3rd grade and is very bright. He is getting straight A’s right now except in Math. He gets A’s and B’s on his homework but struggles greatly with his tests. He has had four so far this year, 2 D’s, 1 C and 1 F. I try to ask his teacher if he needs extra help and she is telling me that there is really a lot of material on the tests and I shouldn’t be concerned. But, from what I’m reading and talking to the doctor, many kids that have ADHD struggle in Math. So, I have two questions- is it typical of children with ADHD to ace all classes except for math or might my son’s struggles be related to a separate issue? He seems to lose focus when I’m trying to explain things to him but I would assume that is the case for all subjects at school so not sure that is the reason for the poor math tests. He doesn’t seem exceptionally nervous either.
    Also, if your child started medication, did their test scores in math improve? He recently started taking Cotempla but I haven’t noticed that much of a change with his math work.

    Thank you!

  • #77417


    It’s possible your child has Dyscalculia. My son is 11 almost 12 and has ADHD, Dyslexia and Dyscalculia. When he was diagnosed with Dyslexia and few years later diagnosed with ADHD, we took him to see a neuropsych specialist (non MD) who discovered while testing him, that he has a math disability. His symptoms include difficulty with sequencing, memorization of math facts and slower processing speed. Some of these characteristics overlap with ADHD and Dyslexia. Often times when a person is diagnosed with ADHD or a LD such as Dyslexia, it is common for them to also have executive function issues, memory processing issues, as well as Dyscalculia. Because your son is doing so well with other subjects, i suspect a math disability is possible. If he is just having difficulty with tests, maybe it is test anxiety. If he is diagnosed with a math disability, he can receive accommodations in the school to help him with math tests. It depends specifically what his math struggles are.

    BTW–the specialist did not specifically say “dyscalculia” but said “math disability”. Not sure why they don’t specifically label with known diagnosis—possibly because she is not a physician.

    • #77419


      This sounds incredibly similar to my daughter and her difficulties! At first, I suspected it was dyslexia. She still has reversal troubles, and it’s present in both reading and math. Your post is making me thing twice about the adhd diagnosis bein the only thing here! Thanks so much for sharing!! She also has trouble with memorization, sequencing, and recall.

  • #77415


    I can completely sympathize! My 3rd grade daughter has struggled with reading since kindergarten. Although I swore I’d never give my children stimulants, her pediatrician recommended at least trying. We worked thru a few different medications until settling on Adderall extended release, which is fast acting but doesn’t last much past the afternoon so there are no sleep troubles.. Since starting a year ago, she has made tremendous improvements, although is still behind. It’s very much trial-and-error with the medications, but keep at it until you find something that he responds well to. The biggest thing to remember (for both you and him) is that any medication he tries should never change the way he FEELS, nor should it change his personality. If it does, the dosage is likely too high!

    Another option for you is to explore what’s called a 504 plan. It is simply a bit of reinforcement to ensure that he’s understanding the material and perhaps accommodations to complete testing, etc, with a bit of extra time. Sometimes, a little extra time is all it takes! Understood.org has a lot of fabulous information! https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/special-services/504-plan/the-difference-between-ieps-and-504-plans

  • #77492


    Five possibilities for this come to mind right away:
    1) Poor executive functioning – could cause him to lose his place in calculations. (common with ADHD) If the test is long, overwhelm “paralysis” could be at play.
    2) Working memory deficits – could cause him to make mistakes in calculations (common with ADHD)

    You’ll Never Learn If You Can’t Remember

    3) Dyscalculia (math LD) – while the fact that he does homework well may make this less likely, it depends on how much support and assistance he’s getting with homework. If he can do the math with lots of help, but not when it’s solely up to him, this is possible.

    [Self-Test] Dyscalculia in Children

    4) Format of tests – I find this to be a huge issue for my son. For example, he does terrible with multiple choice tests and says he could do better if everything was short answer.
    5) Test anxiety – while you’d think he’d struggle with tests in all subjects if it were test anxiety, the fact is that he could be super anxious about math tests because he struggles with them, but at easy with other exams because they are easier for him.

    Medication could help if it’s a focus problem or an anxiety problem. Medication won’t do much, if anything, for the other possibilities.

    ADDitude Community Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

  • #77843


    When kids “just don’t test well,” that means the testing format or the testing environment is not conducive to the specific child’s needs and the teacher needs to make accommodations. If you believe that the length of the tests or the abundance of concepts on the tests is an issue, you can ask for a 504 plan to be written with an accommodation of shortened tests. This might mean fewer test questions. It could also mean that a longer test gets broken up over multiple sittings (i.e., part before recess, part after recess, or spread over a few days). Another solution would be for the teacher to assess more frequently so that the assessments can be shorter. Teachers can also find other ways to assess than the typical paper/pencil test. These are all solutions that I use with my students.

    • #78058


      This is spot on! One note, though — state exams, like end of grade testing, and final exams in high school, cannot be reformatted. My son bombed his English midterm on the Reading Comprehension. We just discussed it at length in an IEP meeting last week, and I was told those tests cannot be reformatted, that the state won’t allow it. He can have testing in separate room (which didn’t happen for the midterm even though it was in his IEP), and breaks and extended time, but the format cannot be changed. The SPED curriculum director and school VP agreed that kids with learning challenges are left to fail these tests because of these rules. Talk about unfair, especially when these exams are part of the student’s grades in high school!

      ADDitude Community Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

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