ADHD And Math


I found two resources that give some suggestions and strategies on teaching math to students with ADHD. One of the resources highlights a list of tips for teachers which I have summarized and chosen from below. The other resource is an interesting paper linking the cognitive similarities between students with a ADHD and math disabilities.

Suggested tips for teaching math to students with ADHD

  • Use color codes for symbols in math on tests (yellow is +, blue is -, etc…)
  • Provide manipulatives (counting blocks, algebra tiles, etc…)
  • Use graph paper instead of regular paper to help with vertical and horizontal number alignment
  • Help students remain organized (notebook checks), provide pre-punched pages
  • Provide examples of problems worked out step-by-step
  • Have students keep index cards of of specific math skills and topics learned
  • Use mnemonic devices or have students create their own (Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally, PEMDAS for order of operations)
  • Provide teaching notes, examples, and work online if possible

ADHD and Math Disabilities

There have been studies that show that 71% of students with ADHD also have a learning disability. 26% out of those students have been labeled as having a specific math disability. This suggests that approximately 1/4 of students with ADHD also suffer from a math disability.

There are several theories that have tried to justify this significant figure:

  • behavior impacts classroom learning
  • difficulty processing classroom language (math as a form of language)
  • effective roles of working memory, executive function, and inattention

Although there are conflicting studies looking at the correlation between working memory, ADHD, and math disabilities. This has led to a belief that there is a strong connection between the roles that working memory and inattention play in regards to math difficulties in students. If one assumes that the cognitive structure required to have math ability is the same structure that is effected from having ADHD, it comes as no surprise that there is a strong correlation between ADHD and math disabilities.

The belief that there is a strong link between ADHD and having a math disability suggests that there are potentially two strong forces working against me in my classroom instruction on math. I have seen the impact of ADHD in my classroom with students that have a hard time staying focused and on-task although are brilliant with their math skills. This is the inattentiveness having an impact on their classroom learning. I didn't realize until reading this article that my seemingly brilliant students who also have the same inattentiveness problems but correspondingly don't have strong math skills might in fact be suffering from a math disability due to their ADHD. I wanted to share this paper to open up the awareness between these two important links to help identify the potentially long-term damaging effects of ADHD with student math skills acquisition.

Created by: William Hale