1+1=? ADHD & Common Core Math

Kids with ADHD often struggle with math. Difficulties with sustaining attention, working memory (manipulating numbers in your head), organization and planning all interfere with math learning and performance. Starting from an early age, kids with ADHD struggle to memorize math facts and are prone to making errors on simple math problems. As they progress through school, they may have difficulty with word problems and more complex calculations because they skip key details or cannot correctly sequence problem solving steps. As a result, students with ADHD are at risk for performing below grade level in math even when they don’t have a specific learning disorder. This can be incredibly frustrating for parents and teachers, and the student themselves – especially when they know that they are capable of doing better.

The relatively recent introduction of Common Core math has added another layer of complexity for kids with ADHD. Unlike older models of math instruction, which focused on rote memorization of math facts and mastery of basic computational models, Common Core math emphasizes teaching problem solving strategies. Students are often required to solve a single math problem in multiple ways so they learn different strategies for obtaining the answer. They may also be required to explain their process and strategy in writing. While a solid argument can be made for the value of the Common Core problem solving approach over traditional memorization and computation, students with ADHD often find the process tedious, redundant, and lengthy – three factors that severely tax their ability to stay on-task, focused, and motivated.

Although math may not come easily to kids with ADHD, most can perform at grade level with modified instruction and additional support. Pushing kids with ADHD to reach their full potential in math is important! Studies show that students who complete higher levels of math in high school fair better in the job market and earn higher salaries. So, avoid the temptation to let your child slide in math and focus on subjects that come more easily to them. Instead, provide them with the support that they need now to reach their potential. It will pay off in the long run.

Here are a few tips to help get your child on track in math and keep them going:

  • Identify your child’s math learning style. Are they a visual learner? Do they learn best by doing? Do they benefit from drawing or mapping out their process, or from having tangible items that they can manipulate? Do they need someone to verbally talk them through math logic and reasoning in a one-on-one or group setting? Then work with your child’s teacher to put strategies into place that match your child’s style.
  • Have your child memorize basic math facts. Have them “overlearn” these facts so they can be recalled quickly and easily. This will help them complete math problems more confidently and with fewer errors. Kids with ADHD may find it easier to memorize math facts using an app, like Sushi Monster or Math Board.
  • Help your child connect with math. Kids with ADHD find it easier to stay focused and motivated when they are interested in a subject. So, help make math interesting for your child! Math is essential to almost every aspect of our lives, including every sport, music, art, and technology-related interest that your child may have. Search the web with your child to learn how math is involved in the things they enjoy most. The University of Cambridge has some great online resources that really bring math to life. I especially love: Wild Maths, Plus Magazine, and the Math and Sport Millennium Mathematics Project.
  • Get extra support. Some kids with ADHD simply need extra support at school or afterschool from a learning center or tutor. Request an assessment and extra support from your child’s school if you think they are not keeping up with their peers in math. If possible, find a learning center or tutor to provide extra support after school. Just make sure they have experience working with kids who have ADHD.

With extra support, encouragement, and motivation kids with ADHD can succeed at math, and may even learn to love the subject along the way!

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