How to Teach Math to ADHD Children

Student working on math homework in classroom.
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Math can be a difficult subject for students with ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Children with ADHD tend to have trouble focusing and may act impulsively, which can make math instructions harder to remember and detailed or multi-step math problems tricky to solve. Instructors who teach math to children with ADHD should use specific strategies and clear instructions to help make concepts and procedures more understandable to these students.

Assistance Dissecting Math Problems

ADHD students usually have more trouble reading through a math problem and determining what they need to solve. They may find it difficult to focus on the important information in the problem. Read problems aloud with these children. If a problem is written on the board or presented on a screen, students should also have a copy in front of them. Point out important words and tell them to underline or highlight these terms. If students seem to be confused about what is being asked in the problem, explain the problem again using different words. Use plenty of guiding questions to make sure the children understand. Beginning in grade 4, you can teach students with ADHD how to take notes on essential parts of the problem.

Manipulatives, Visuals and Role Playing

Students with ADHD often become restless and distracted. Provide opportunities for students to work with their bodies or hands. Using manipulatives is a good strategy for students in kindergarten through third grade. Manipulatives include objects like colored counters, geometric shapes, play money, Base-10 blocks and connecting cubes. Incorporate work mats or graphic organizers and diagrams when appropriate. These resources give children with attention challenges a chance to use their hands and move things around. Manipulatives also help ADHD children organize information visually. If your students seem to have excess energy, invite them to role play a math problem. They will be able to stand up and move around while still engaging in math.

Various Work Environments

Give your students a variety of work environments. For example, begin by teaching a brief mini-lesson with the whole class. Allow students to leave their desks or tables and sit at a meeting area as a group, if you have this type of space. Then split the class into small groups or partnerships to do some cooperative work. During this time you can let students find their own places to work in the room or go back to their desks. Meet again as a full class to go over the work. Changing the work environment can keep students with ADHD from losing focus and getting bored.


Structure is essential when teaching math to students with ADHD. At the start of a lesson, explain what will happen during class. Write the steps of the lesson on the board. Set expectations for learning and behavior. Children should understand the lesson objective and be aware of your rules for behavior. For instance, they should know whether they are allowed to talk quietly or get up and move around. A final review should be part of the lesson structure. Regrouping to go back over the lesson, discuss answers and remind children of what was learned will help them remember new math principles.

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