Engaging Math For ADHD Students

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Children with learning disabilities are a part of every classroom. The teacher needs to be extra sensitive to accommodate their needs. The teacher’s attitude makes a big difference in making the classroom environment relaxed and ready for learning. Having said that, it is also the other students in the classroom who need to make it conducive for Math learning. The teacher could be the guide to make others more accommodating to one or more students with special needs. With adequate knowledge, planning, preparation and perseverance, teaching kids with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be quite rewarding.

A typical inclusive classroom set up has to be conditioned for calming the children so that they are ready for understanding. The teacher has to manage all their needs in the common classroom environment.Though it depends on the experience and educational background of the teacher, there are some things which the teacher can practice which will boost the learning, especially in Math.

Children with ADHD tend to be concrete thinkers. Without something to visualize, touch or experience, they struggle to learn new mathematical concepts. Many young learners go through their daily classroom activities without serious focus. They are constantly distracted by other things happening in the classroom. They might also think about the past events.

These students might miss important instructions. Some of the specific problems that ADHD students face in math learning are inattention, organisation, working memory, and self-monitoring.

  • Inattention

ADHD students have sensory needs. A straightforward method to handle this challenge is to have a sensory Math corner created for them. Some Math activities which will calm the brain of sensory overload is using beads for counting, play dough to spell number names, making numbers with play dough etc. These activities make the student focus better as the brain calms down sufficiently to accept new information.

  • Organization

Most kids in a classroom benefit from an organised schedule of activities. ADHD students, in particular, need a checklist to break down a particular task so that they are not overwhelmed. They will never benefit from a set of continuous instructions. For example, to start their day, you could ask the class to read the checklist written in simple language on a laminated sheet on each student’s work-space.
Asking them to read out the instructions help children prepare for their day ahead.


  • Working memory

Working memory is the part of short-term memory that is concerned with immediate, conscious, perceptual and linguistic processing. Without this part, students will struggle to be focused in the class. This helps them absorb what is being taught in the class and also apply this learning in the workbook.

  • Self-monitoring

Self-monitoring is another crucial part of every Math class, not just an inclusive class. This is examining their work for errors and also checking if it contains proper steps to reach the answer. The structured delivery of the concept ends in the answer being delivered with suitable steps.This can be practiced in the class by having a set of instructions to follow for self-monitoring.

Now let us try out some activities based on mathematical operations to see how a teacher can work keeping all these factors in mind. Engage the primary school children in a “find addition facts’’ game –

Articles required: Craft sticks, colored paper, card paper.
→Engage the children in coloring the sticks. This helps with their sensory needs and also builds focus.
→Cut the card paper to make addition facts
→Glue answers on the craft sticks.
→Ask the student to match addition facts according to the number on the sticks.

This activity helps them to understand the concept of addition. It can be easily adjusted to include subtraction and multiplication operations.

Another important concept which is difficult for many students is fractions.

As most of the hyperactive students do not like to sit in one place, this activity can be done in a vast space or on the floor. Make a big square on the floor and explain fractions using manipulatives. You can use examples from daily life to engage them better.

Once they have understood the concept and played with the drawings, move back to seats with two students facing each other. Play the fraction bingo game with dice. Throw two dice and make a fraction. Let them understand that the number on the first die will be the numerator and the number on the second die will be the denominator. Let them pick colors and shade appropriate fractions.

Busy bags

For students experiencing sensory overload, busy bags might help. The teacher can arrange some sorting or counting activity with colorful buttons or pattern blocks. The busy bag can also contain some quick math puzzles like tangram (a dissection puzzle) to engage the first or second graders.

Physical exercise

Studies have shown that daily exercise is not only a way to shape the major muscles of the body, but also a very productive work out for the brain. The teacher can involve the hyperactive student in a game to pick the right answer from the facts spread on the floor. The student can do this as a part of a group.
Yoga for kids with an emphasis on breathing, meditation and physical exertion are effective at calming and centering ADHD children. Specific yoga poses like tree pose or child’s pose calm the students and practicing them regularly in class fosters mindfulness.


In addition to using these strategies, the teachers can use the growth mindset in their class very effectively to handle students with ADHD. Always presenting a calm demeanor helps in tackling a possible tantrum.

Some growth mindset strategies could be used to encourage the children to focus on small steps to take the big leap. Keeping the activities really short, keeping elementary activities in tandem with the current concept and keeping activities very engaging will help the teachers a lot in managing the class.

As with any other student, an ADHD student wants to be understood and treated warmly. ADHD students might benefit from a positive and happy environment in class. A good teacher can ensure outstanding learning outcomes if she keeps these simple yet powerful points in mind.

Learn from the best math teachers and top your exams

  • Live one on one classroom and doubt clearing
  • Practice worksheets in and after class for conceptual clarity
  • Personalized curriculum to keep up with school