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Math Help For Students With ADHD

Math Help For Students With ADHD

Plus Math Products That Help The Struggling Student Learn Math

Have you ever wondered if your child would ever learn Math? Have you wondered if they even could learn Math? Having a student with ADHD I was quick to discover that even though T excelled in every other subject, the struggle with Math was real. Math was our biggest academic challenge. I tried everything. I bought countless curriculums. I checked out and tried tons of online Math programs. I bought every app I could find. I made flashcards, invented dice and card games around Math, and still, the block remained firmly in place. I was so frustrated but even worse, he was so frustrated.

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T is a student who is very serious about his grades and he loves to learn.  This inability to learn basic Math facts year after year was extremely difficult for both of us. During our homeschool journey, I found a ton of tools that didn’t work. But I also found a bunch of tools that did! And I want to share those with you but first things first.

Why Do Students With ADHD Often Struggle With Math?

After so much effort with so little gain, I started wondering how much of this situation may be caused by ADHD?  With very little effort, I was able to find a lot of information explaining why we were struggling so severely with Math. Here are some facts every parent of a student with ADHD and struggling in Math should know.

Facts About The Relationship Between Math and Students With ADHD

  • Many students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have math learning disabilities, like dyscalculia, 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.    Source:  ADDitude
  • 26% of children with ADHD have a specific math disability.  (Mayes & Calhoun, 2006 Mayes. S.D., & Calhoun, S.L. (2006). The frequency of reading, math and writing disabilities in children with clinical disorders. Learning and Individual Differences.
    16, 145-157.)

Understanding Why Many Students With ADHD Have Difficulty With Math (Source:

  • Many children with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder find it very difficult to solve problems in a systematic manner.
  • It is hard for many kids with ADHD to make a decision; therefore, many will face problems in trying to decide which math strategy should be used on different types of problems. (This is T!)
  • It is common for children that have been diagnosed with ADHD not to remember details about information that they have learned at an earlier time. Math is considered to be a cumulative subject and, in most instances, the knowledge obtained previously is required to understand current and future math-related subjects.
  • If an ADHD child experiences problems with language, many will find it challenging to read and understand math instructions and word problems.
Never time a student with ADHD

Tips On How To Teach Math To A Student With ADHD

I have learned a lot of tricks that help my student with ADHD overcome his struggles with Math. Here are the most effective ones I have discovered so far.

  • Present only a limited number of questions at once. If he has a worksheet with fifteen problems, I will recreate it so there are no more than five problems per sheet. Otherwise, he gets overwhelmed, panics, and ultimately won’t complete it.
  • Include an example with all steps in the process presented at the top of each worksheet or on a whiteboard.
  • If they need a desk copy of the multiplication tables, allow it. When T is doing Algebra or Geometry, I allow him to have his tables chart present. We added a separate section to our Math for daily multiplication reminders. Done separately.
  • NEVER time your child on tests or quizzes. Beyond this, when selecting apps to help learn Math, don’t choose ones with timers or countdowns.
  • Be present. Watch quietly as they complete their work so that you can catch errors early and re-direct.
  • Provide grid paper. When working examples the little boxes help them keep everything nicely aligned.
  • Talk through word problems helping them to remove the unnecessary information and focus on the data that counts.
  • Before they begin a problem, have them speak it out. T often will confuse an addition symbol and a subtraction symbol. Having him read the problem and bringing his attention to the symbol stops errors before they occur.
  • If your child is on medication (mine is) then make sure you schedule Math class for the time when medication is working its best. For us, that is about an hour after he has taken it. This made a huge difference for us.
  • Always provide a study guide before every quiz or test.
  • If all else fails, allow them the calculator! I was so strongly against this in the beginning but I have discovered that allowing him the calculator while he works problems relieves so much anxiety. I still have a separate Math section that we devote exclusively to basic Math skills but this prevents him from falling behind in other areas of Math.
  • Encourage your student. This is not easy for them and it is not easy for you. Celebrate your victories. And be your students’ cheerleader. I am constantly telling T that he is a total rockstar at Math because he is. He may not be able to remember his multiplication facts all the time, but he is gifted at problem-solving in many areas. When he does well, I always make a big deal about it. Confidence matters. Build it up!
ADHD students can succeed at Math

Math Products That Help Students With ADHD

When T was in Elementary School we tried so many curriculums that they took up an entire shelf on the bookshelf and nothing worked. Until we discovered Life of Fred! These books teach Math in a storytelling manner and are engaging and fun. T finally started looking forward to Math Class, relaxed and got to learning. I wish I had started with Life of Fred.

When T was really struggling with basic addition we found a game he couldn’t get enough of and it proved to be the breakthrough he needed. This is the one and only game that includes speed that T responded positively to. If you haven’t tried Clumsy Thief. I am recommending it. Learning can be fun.

Finally, my top recommendation for any student having trouble learning their multiplication tables is Times Tales. This workbook turns basic multiplication facts into stories that are easy to remember. To this day, I will catch T saying,  “Mrs. Week is seven…” These again are where I wish I would have started with T. Live and learn. Hopefully, we can spare some other student and his weary Momma the same delay by encouraging they get started with Times Tales.

Online Programs That Help Your Student Succeed In Math

As far as online programs my personal favorite is Khan Academy. This is a free program and it works well. I like that it won’t move on without your student. It tests for mastery and only once a concept has been mastered is the student moved ahead. It also offers video instruction and hints that are very helpful. Finally, it sends you reports of how your student is doing.

Another great free online resource is Easy Peasy All In One Homeschool. Even though T and I didn’t discover it until later in our homeschool journey, we have so many homeschool family friends that absolutely love it. I feel like I have to include it because it comes up so often in success stories.

Dyscalculia and ADHD

Let’s Talk About Dyscalculia

Have you ever heard of this term? I hadn’t. And here I was struggling horribly to help T remember his multiplication facts, his birthday, our address, and even his phone number. And here is a kid that can remember the finite details of excessive amounts of most academic information without a problem whatsoever. Why could he not remember these things? They all had one thing in common. They all contained numeric values.

Dyscalculiasevere difficulty in making arithmetical calculations, as a result of brain disorder.

Dyscalculia can occur at every IQ level, often at a higher than average IQ.

“Dyscalculia and ADHD often occur at the same time. Sometimes kids will make math errors because of ADHD challenges. They might have trouble paying attention to detail, for instance. So some experts recommend re-evaluating math skills after getting ADHD symptoms under control.”

There are many symptoms of Dyscalculia and you can view a thorough list over here at Here are some of the symptoms I saw present in T’s case.

  • Has difficulty learning and recalling basic math facts.
  • May still use fingers to count instead of using more advanced strategies, like mental math.
  • Has difficulty understanding place value.
  • Has trouble with fractions and with measuring things, like ingredients in a simple recipe.
  • Struggles to apply math concepts to money, including estimating the total cost, making the exact change and figuring out a tip.
  • Has trouble finding different approaches to the same math problem.
  • Working memory issues – problems holding information in the mind while performing an operation with it. Children may be able to perform some mathematics operations one day but not the next.

If you are interested in learning more about Dyscalculia you can find a lot of interesting information here.  You can also try this prescreen test . While Dyscalculia requires a professional diagnosis, this is a good place to start.

I want to make a point here that not every child with ADHD who is struggling in Math is going to be diagnosed with Dyscalculia. Still, I do feel it is worth looking into. Every piece of information we can gain into understanding our children’s learning patterns helps guide us towards the best methods to teach them effectively.

Students With ADHD Can Succeed At Math Provided The Right Tools and Learning Environment

I know T has this amazing brain and it works very differently than mine but I still can get frustrated teaching the same things over and over again. We have to be patient with ourselves as well as with our students. Understanding that T’s blocks are issues that have nothing to do with his desire to learn, his behavior or even his intelligence has certainly helped me to gain a lot of patience when I thought I had none left.  As his teacher, it is my responsibility to work with him and provide compassion and understanding as we work our way towards success. And we are at last finding success. It can be done. We are doing it right now.

And you can too!

Math Help for Students With ADHD

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