How a Teacher Can Help the Child with ADHD
~~ Teaching Math ~~
Adapted from Pure Facts Oct. 1996, Vol.20, No. 8

Even after a youngster is successfully on the Feingold Program, deficits may remain. At the 1996 Feingold Association Conference, FAUS past president Pat Palmer, who teaches a course in learning strategies at Staten Island College, discussed ways teachers and parents can help the child who is having problems in school.

Math symbols

In the area of math, make sure the child understands math symbols as well as the numbers. If a child doesn't understand the symbols used in math, he won't be able to do the work. For example, what do you have to know to add 2 plus 3 minus 1? "Plus." Does he understand that plus means to add more? Now you've added 2 more; you have 4. That's a new number. Minus 1. Does he know that minus means take away? Then you have an equal sign. All of what I've just done equals what? This isn't a simple problem, but a sequence of numbers and symbols and concepts that the child has to understand, and if he doesn't understand each of these things he won't be able to do the math.

Find the Weak Link

Try to identify the "weak link" in the chain of math skills. As math advances, he will have to carry out more complex sequences. In long division you need to divide, multiply and subtract, as well as carry numbers. Any one portion that is not understood will prevent him from being able to gain the skill, so try to find the place where he is having trouble and work on that weak link.

Keeping columns straight

Some children who have difficulty doing math problems understand all the symbols and have the needed skills, but they can't keep the columns of numbers neatly lined up, so they add and subtract the wrong numbers. Graph paper may be helpful, but it can be hard on the teacher who has to check the work. There's a much easier solution that I like to share with the teachers in my course.

Take a sheet of lined paper and turn it on its side, so the lines are vertical instead of horizontal. Write an addition problem so that each number is in its own space. The lines will keep the columns of numbers in a row, and they can then be added up. This is easier for a teacher to read, and doesn't require special paper. What difference does it make if the paper is held sideways? The important thing is for the child to learn the math.

Word problems & more

Word problems often appear frightening to children. Underline the actions in a math word problem; ignore the words, and you can then turn it into a "regular" math problem.

Movement games are a good way to teach numbers. For example, "Every second child move left."

Older children, doing more advanced math, may know all the steps but have trouble remembering their order. In his workshops on helping children with learning disabilities, Dr. John Taylor has a cute saying that helps children remember the steps they need to use for long division. The first initials for "divide, multiply, subtract and check" become: "Does Mother Serve Cheeseburgers?"