Learning Challenges

Help for the 3 Rs

Is your child struggling in school? Try these teacher-tested learning strategies to help your child improve his reading, writing and arithmetic.

Reading, writing, arithmetic. They’re the core of the grade-school curriculum – but often the bane of a child with attention deficit disorder (ADD ADHD). Your child’s teacher may not have the patience or expertise to offer your child tips to master these subjects in ways that work best for her.

That’s where you come in. Help your child use these creative learning tricks, and watch the three R’s soar.


  • Follow with a finger. Encourage your child to read with a guide finger. This can help with losing his place, skipping lines, and omitting or repeating words.
  • Stick ’em up. Have your child mark important passages with sticky notes, so she can find them later. Use a symbol for each topic, for example, a smiley face for information about a character, a house for setting, a star for important ideas.
  • Pace read-alouds. Suggest that your child take a short breath at each comma and a regular breath at the end of each sentence. This will improve his reading pace – and comprehension.
  • Find the five W’s. Focus on who, what, when, where, why, and how when reading. Help your child track them with a chart.
  • See it. Help your child to visualize a story by seeing it as a movie in her mind. As she reads, the movie should change. This will help her remember characters, facts, and concepts.


  • Chart it. Have your child verbalize what he will write, then make a flow chart or mind map. Have him write the main topic in a circle in the center of a piece of paper, then write subtopics in other circles and connect them to the main circle with spokes. This will enable him to articulate ideas and link them appropriately, regardless of the order in which they were generated.
  • Use a story organizer. This works for both reading and writing. Your child should make a list that includes characters, setting (time and place), the problem, the goal, the action, and the solution. Fill in the details under each heading.
  • Draw it. Use diagrams or drawings to plot and tell a story.


  • Use games. Here’s an example, for multiplying 9s: Lay your hands flat on the table, palms down, and label each finger 1 to 10, from left to right. For 5 x 9, curl your number 5 finger down. The numbers before this break will be tens, those after will be the ones. With four fingers on the left side of the break and five on the right, you have 45. 5 x 9 = 45.
  • Be manipulative. Use blocks, tiles, even playing cards, to work out computations physically.
  • Draw a picture. For example, if the problem is to divide 48 cookies among 12 students, draw a plate for each student, then divide the cookies among the plates. Seeing the problem helps kids who struggle to learn math in traditional ways.
  • See the sign. Have your child highlight the operational sign (+, -, x, ÷) for each problem before working the calculations. This reinforces the type of computation asked for.