How Do I Teach Math to a Child with ADHD?

Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may be inattentive, impulsive and overactive. They can also be easily distractible, frustrated and bored. Problems at school may cause their parents to resort to homeschooling. Whether ADHD children are taught at home or at school, there are strategies to help them learn.

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Methods for Teaching Math to an ADHD Child

Different approaches can be used for helping a child with ADHD learn math. Some of them are presented here, and books are available to guide you. Carol Barnier, a mother who homeschools her ADHD child, has written several helpful books, including How to Get Your Child off the Refrigerator and on to Learning. Another resource is Sandra F. Rief's How to Reach and Teach Children with ADD/ADHD: Practical Techniques, Strategies, and Interventions.

Block Out Visual and Auditory Distractions

In some situations, putting a tri-fold display board on a table where the student can sit will help minimize visual distractions. Ear-phones that can simply block out sounds or pipe in quiet, soothing music may also be used to minimize auditory distractions.

Make a Checklist of Work for the Day

ADHD children usually work best with structure, consistency and predictability. Change is often difficult for them. If you give them a checklist of what you'll be covering for the day, the day becomes predictable; the children know what to expect and they can mark off each item when it's done.

Present Lessons with Audiovisuals

ADHD children may learn better through audiovisual presentations. For example, if you have an overhead projector, you can demonstrate how to use manipulatives. The children can copy your actions with their own hands-on learning objects.

Let Them Do Something Active While Listening or Reciting

Oftentimes, ADHD children seem to not be listening because they're wiggling, catching imaginary bugs or flapping their arms. Just the opposite may be true; they may be incapable of listening while sitting still. You can compensate by allowing them to use manipulatives, sculpt with Play-Doh or draw a picture. Homeschooled children may even be allowed to jump on a mini-trampoline or stand on their head. You simply need to make sure that they heard what you said.

Incorporate Movement Whenever Possible

Encouraging active ways to give answers or demonstrate facts will aid the ADHD student and be fun, too. An example is the game Mother, May I? By turn, ask the children to solve math problems that they can do in their heads. If they answer correctly, you respond, 'You may take two giant/baby/scissor/frog steps forward.' If they move without saying, 'Mother, may I?' they have to take two steps back.

When incorporating or allowing movement, watch that it's not too stimulating for the children. Sometimes this can simply exacerbate the hyperactivity.

Allow Them to Speak Instead of Write

If ADHD children have too much difficulty writing out their math problems, but they can tell you step-by-step what to write and where, give them opportunities to do some of their work verbally. They still need to try to write some of the time, but it may be easier once they have grasped the basic concepts. Some children, after telling you the steps for completing a problem while you write it out, may be able to copy what you wrote. Encourage them to do so.

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