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Successful Instruction for Students With ADHD: Individualizing Instructional Practices -- Mathematics

Teaching Children With ADHD:
Instructional Strategies and Practices Part 7

Numerous individualized instructional practices can help children with ADHD improve their basic computation skills. The following are just a few:

Patterns in math.
Teach the student to recognize patterns when adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing whole numbers. (e.g., the digits of numbers which are multiples of 9 [18, 27, 36 . . . ] add up to 9).

Partnering for math activities.
Pair a child with ADHD with another student and provide opportunities for the partners to quiz each other about basic computation skills.

Mastery of math symbols.
If children do not understand the symbols used in math, they will not be able to do the work. For instance, do they understand that the "plus" in 1 + 3 means to add and that the "minus" in 5 - 3 means to take away?

Mnemonics for basic computation.
Teach the child mnemonics that describe basic steps in computing whole numbers. For example, "Don't Miss Susie's Boat" can be used to help the student recall the basic steps in long division (i.e., divide, multiply, subtract, and bring down)

Real-life examples of money skills.
Provide the child with real-life opportunities to practice target money skills. For example, ask the child to calculate his or her change when paying for lunch in the school cafeteria, or set up a class store where children can practice calculating change.

Color coding arithmetic symbols.
Color code basic arithmetic symbols, such as +, -, and =, to provide visual cues for children when they are computing whole numbers.

Calculators to check basic computation.
Ask the child to use a calculator to check addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division.

Board games for basic computation.
Ask the child to play board games to practice adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing whole numbers.

Computer games for basic computation.
Schedule computer time for the child to drill and practice basic computations, using appropriate games.

"Magic minute" drills.
Have students perform a quick (60-second) drill every day to practice basic computation of math facts, and have children track their own performance.


To help children with ADHD improve their skill in solving word problems in mathematics, try the following:

Reread the problem.
Teach the child to read a word problem two times before beginning to compute the answer.

Clue words.
Teach the child clue words that identify which operation to use when solving word problems. For example, words such as "sum," "total," or "all together" may indicate an addition operation.

Guiding questions for word problems.
Teach students to ask guiding questions in solving word problems. For example: What is the question asked in the problem? What information do you need to figure out the answer? What operation should you use to compute the answer?

Real-life examples of word problems.
Ask the student to create and solve word problems that provide practice with specific target operations, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division. These problems can be based on recent, real-life events in the child's life.

Calculators to check word problems.
Ask the student to use a calculator to check computations made in answering assigned word problems.


Some children with ADHD benefit from using special materials to help them complete their math assignments, including:

Number lines.
Provide number lines for the child to use when computing whole numbers.

Use manipulatives to help students gain basic computation skills, such as counting poker chips when adding single-digit numbers.

Graph paper.
Ask the child to use graph paper to help organize columns when adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing whole numbers.

Go to
Part 8:
Organizational and Study Skills Useful for Academic Instruction of Children With ADHD


Teaching Children With ADHD

This ten-part series explores the three components of a successful strategy for educating children with ADHD: academic instruction, behavioral interventions, and classroom accommodations. Use the handy index below to find the specific information for which you are looking.

Publication posted to Education World 06/25/2009
Source: U.S. Department of Education; last accessed on 06/25/2009 at