How to Help Your ADHD Child Succeed in Math

A schoolgirl doing mathematics at chalkboard
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Learning math and performing math computations can often be a challenge for students with ADHD. Impairments in working memoryinattention, impulsiveness, disorganization, and slower processing speed can all contribute to weaknesses in math.

If your child is struggling with math, the first step is to pinpoint the areas where breakdowns in learning are occurring. The next step is to incorporate teaching strategies and accommodations that will help your child to be more successful.

Work closely with your child’s teacher. Their understanding of these concepts is essential, as is taking the time to incorporate effective learning strategies. This can be challenging in some educational settings with overcrowded classrooms and other seemingly more pressing issues like behavior problems in class. Effective parent advocacy for your child is critical, and the support of pediatricians and psychologists is essential.

Suggested Accommodations for ADHD Students

These are some of the general accommodations that are often helpful for students with ADHD who are experiencing academic difficulties in math.

  • Allow the student to use desk copies of math fact sheets or charts (for example, a multiplication table fact sheet that can be kept on the desk when needed) to help compensate for memory difficulties and increase recall while solving math problems in class, at home, and on tests.
  • Provide the student with a handout of clear steps and procedures to follow for multi-sequence computations. Allow the handout to be used as a guide when solving problems in class, during homework time, and on tests.
  • Provide models of sample problems and permit the student to use these models as a reference when solving problems in class, during homework, and on tests.
  • Allow use of a calculator in class, during homework, and on tests, when appropriate.
  • Allow the student extra time on tests to prevent rushing and careless mistakes. Another strategy that is often helpful during test-taking is to break up tests into several sections and allow the student to complete each section with short breaks in between to move about, get water, and refocus.
  • Decrease the number of math problems assigned to what is essential for the student's understanding and practice of math concepts. For example, rather than assigning problems 1 - 20, have the student complete the even numbers.
  • Provide the student with frequent feedback about progress and set up regular "accuracy checks."

Example: Have the student check in with you after completing a row of problems. Check to make sure the student is solving problems accurately, and if all is well, the student can resume work on the next row, etc. Checking in frequently like this allows you to make adjustments if breakdowns are occurring, gives the student a little break between problems, and reduces frustrations of having to do the whole paper all over again when there are errors not caught early on.

  • Reduce writing requirements by providing the student with handouts of math problems to solve instead of having the student copy problems from the board or from a textbook.
  • Have the student use graph paper rather than notebook paper when doing computations on paper. The squares and the grid layout of graph paper provide a nice guide to help students line up numbers, columns, and spaces correctly on paper.
  • Provide the student with review summaries to help prepare for tests.
1 Source
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  1. Friedman LM, Rapport MD, Orban SA, Eckrich SJ, Calub CA. Applied problem solving in children with ADHD: the mediating roles of working memory and mathematical calculation. J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2018;46:491-504. doi:10.1007/s10802-017-0312-7

Additional Reading
  • Rief SF. How to Reach and Teach Children with ADD/ADHD: Practical Techniques, Strategies, and Interventions. 2nd ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass; 2005.

  • Zeigler Dendy CA. Teaching Teens with ADD, ADHD, and Executive Function Deficits: A Quick Reference Guide for Teachers and Parents. 2nd ed. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House; 2011.

By Keath Low
 Keath Low, MA, is a therapist and clinical scientist with the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at the University of North Carolina. She specializes in treatment of ADD/ADHD.