Math For Children With Disabilities: How To Support Their Math Education

Everyone has had their fair share of struggles in math, but some may find the subject much more challenging to learn than others. This may be attributed to neurological conditions that make learning difficult, like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and learning disabilities such as dyslexia (reading disorder) and especially dyscalculia (math disorder). In fact, up to sixty percent of people with ADHD also suffer from a learning disability.

In any case, it’s extremely important to recognize and manage these learning disabilities as soon as possible. If not, it may pose more problems later in life. These problems involve psychological distress, faltering mental health and unemployment, as around only six percent of people with learning disabilities are in paid work. With well-managed attention and support to their disabilities, students can strive towards excellence in math just like Albert Einstein – a world-renowned physicist said to have had the learning disabilities of both ADHD and dyscalculia.

To help the brilliant minds of these students thrive, the strategies of teaching math for children with disabilities must be direct and innovative in accommodating their needs. Here are a few simple yet effective ways to do so:

1. Introducing the Math Concept

When introducing concepts in math for children with disabilities, a direct approach is necessary in creating a basis of understanding. 

This can be done by keeping sample math problems visible and available to the student, as it helps them instill problem-solving through referring to a step-by-step model. The placement of the sample problems can be on a board or on a card that the student keeps next to their work. With this method, it becomes easier for the concept to be established when students try to solve its math problems.

For mathematical topics like geometry, geoboards can be utilized to help the students further visualize geometric concepts like area, perimeter, reflection and scaling. This effectively gives them a visual representation, further cementing the concept and its processes in their minds.

2. Memorizing the Processes in Concept

In memorizing math for children with disabilities, one can get creative to help math concepts stick. Three great ways to do so are through association and mnemonics.

Association utilizes your brain’s ability to link something new with something you already know, increasing the chances of remembering and recalling the new information. As an example, what do you associate summer with? If you thought of something within 5 seconds, that just goes to show you how powerful association can be. So when word problems are introduced to students, encourage them to associate it with analogies or examples from their everyday lives. 

A mnemonic is a versatile learning technique that helps in retaining information, created in the form of a song, chant, acronym, phrase and more. It helps to reinforce a student’s memorization of math through catchy phrasing and ability to be repeated! Mnemonics can make math not only easier to do but more fun as well, as they usually use imagery, senses and humor to establish memorization. Both use active learning as well, as the students are engaged in using them to solve problems and understand concepts.

3. Practicing the Learned Concept

There are many ways for students to practice math, which is great in teaching math for children with disabilities! Some excellent ways are through games and manipulatives.

Using math games as practice is a no-brainer – they create an environment conducive to learning while being entertaining! They bring a twist in reinforcing math abilities, allowing the student to replay games with direct instruction, incentive of winning and rewarding them with positive feedback or motivating them to improve.

Manipulatives, which are objects that enable tactile learning, are exceptional in teaching math for children with disabilities. In using manipulatives through drawing, technology and other objects, students can visualize the concept and communicate their understanding of math. This helps engage the minds of students as they use their hands and eyes while learning, becoming proactive in improving their math education.

4. Demonstrating the Learned Concept

As strict requirements in tests and quizzes can trigger math anxiety for children with disabilities, it’s essential to modify curriculum towards ensuring learning milestones.

A way to modify the curriculum is by providing test alternatives, enabling evidence of learning math for children with disabilities. Students can instead demonstrate their learning through methods like interviews, discussions and presentations, allowing them to be more comfortable in remembering and relaying concepts they’ve learned. If tests are mandatory, then the option for extended time and rewrites should be available, as well as a small sheet of formulas or acronyms used as learning aids during tests.


Becoming successful at math for children with disabilities is absolutely achievable! In discovering the learning disabilities as soon as possible, educational professionals should adapt their teaching strategies to involve clear instruction, creativity and accomodation in strengthening their math skills. That way, children with learning disabilities can achieve the same goals and opportunities for math success as the rest of their classmates. As a prime example of this, Albert Einstein overcame his learning challenges towards becoming one of the most important historical figures, saying:

“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

At Math Project, we always strive to cultivate an inclusive learning environment. We help students with learning disabilities, like ADHD and cerebral palsy, to conquer their math difficulties, watching them increase their confidence and love for math. Some have even started helping others with math at school, demonstrating their fascinating improvement and resilience towards math excellence.

Get in touch today – we’ll help your child achieve math success, no matter the learning barriers.


Citations:
Supporting Students with Mathematics Disabilities – edu.gov.mb.ca
Children with ADHD Symptoms Have a Higher Risk for Reading, Spelling and Math Difficulties in the GINIplus and LISAplus Cohort Studies – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
‘You have to give learning disabled people the opportunity to prove themselves’ – .theguardian.com
Math Mnemonic – basicknowledge101.com
20 Insightful Albert Einstein Quotes That Will Change Your Mindset – lifehack.org