For Teachers

The Math Teacher’s Guide to Helping Struggling Students

When math doesn’t add up, a child gets frustrated — losing confidence, motivation, and self-esteem along the way. Teachers, use these accommodations to make learning click for kids with ADHD, dyscalculia, or other math struggles.

A child's hand completing a homework assignment with the help of math accommodations
Close up of child's hand writing out math problems in classroom

Many students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have math learning disabilities, due to the multiple processes and brain functions needed to solve math problems.

Some math difficulties are specifically related to ADHD — inattention, organization, working memory, self-monitoring.

Others result directly from learning disabilities — sequential learning, perceptual-motor, and language weaknesses. Teachers can use the following math accommodations to support struggling students.

1. Allow extra time on tests so that students are not rushed. Also avoid, if possible, timed tests of basic facts, which students with ADHD or LD have difficulty memorizing. Even if they know facts by memory, they can choke on a timed test.

2. Provide frequent checks for accuracy when students are doing classwork. Set a certain number of problems to complete (one row only, or four or five problems), and check these before the student is permitted to continue. This is helpful for students who become frustrated by having to fix a lot of problems done incorrectly.


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3. List the steps/procedures for multi-step problems and algorithms. Post clearly numbered steps, and/or give students a desk-copy model of steps needed to solve problems.

4. Keep sample math problems on the board, and have students write them in a notebook for reference.

5. Use individual dry-erase boards. Have students compute one step of a problem at a time, and ask them to hold up their boards upon your signal after each step.

6. Ask for choral responses in instruction — have the entire class chant in unison multiples, evens/odds, or place value.

7. Reduce the number of problems that you assign. Assigning 10 problems written neatly, with work shown — rather than a full page of problems — is enough to assess your students’ understanding.

Adapted with permission from sandrarief.com, How to Reach and Teach Children with ADD/ADHD, Second Edition, copyright 2005, and The ADD/ADHD Checklist, Second Edition, copyright 2008, by SANDRA F. RIEF, M.S.

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