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Success in Math for Your Child with ADD
By Melissa Katz, M.S.

Skills Needed for Success In Math
Having a solid foundation of basic math skills is critical to a child's success in math. She needs to grasp key math concepts and rules in order to gain competency in math. She must be able to combine information to perform calculations and solve word problems. These concepts and rules become more complex as the grade level increases and they are often interrelated. The skill of basic addition for example, begins with single digit numbers. She must understand the concept of place value. She must be able to line up the numbers, use the appropriate symbol, and perform the operation of addition. After that she learns to add two digit numbers, then three digits. This is followed by addition with regrouping.

Math and Your Child with ADD
A child who has ADD may have difficulty grasping key math concepts and rules. In addition, she may omit some or all information, process information slowly, fail to recall facts, copy information inaccurately, make careless errors, have difficulty following directions and doing problem-solving. Continuing attention deficits can impede her learning and progress in math. A child with ADD may be unable to perform in math successfully, even in areas where she comprehends. This can lead to frustration, anxiety, avoidance and a lack of confidence.

Math Therapy for Your Child with ADD
Does your child struggle with the above or other math tasks due to ADD? Has her lack of attention and focus left her with gaps in earlier math skills? If you answered "YES", then your child would much benefit from Math Therapy. Unlike Traditional Tutoring, Math Therapy places much of the emphasis on helping your child keep up with classes. Math therapy places emphasis on closing your child's learning and performance gaps. It works on building academic skills while at the same time greatly enhancing the underlying brain functions that impact learning and performance. It utilizes special research-based techniques to optimize underlying learning functions, such as processing, perception, memory, tracking, discrimination, and attention and focus in addition to academic skill-building. With Math Therapy, your child learns and applies these techniques to performing math calculations and doing problem-solving.

Strategies for Math Success
In my practice, I use a number of Math Therapy strategies to help your child with ADD gain mastery in math. By using these strategies on a regular basis she can perform successfully in math. They help her to gain core knowledge, while improving her processing ability, comprehension, critical thinking, fluency, accuracy, and speed. As she experiences achievement in math skills, she develops confidence. Some of the many math strategies I use are: circling or marking, special paper, manipulatives, daily card drills, visualization, numbering steps, timing drills, graphic organizers, modeling, visual prompts and cues, self-checking, assistive technology, and finger tricks.

Circling or Marking
When the ADD child is adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing I have her first take notice of the sign, which indicates which operation is to be performed. If she has difficulty focusing on details or makes careless errors due to a lack of attention, she is asked to circle the sign. This helps her to draw attention to it and to discriminate it from other signs. Whenever there are details that she can easily miss I ask her to circle them, underline them, or place parentheses around them.

Special Paper
It is important that your child aligns numbers properly before solving problems that involve computing. She needs to know the concept of place value so that she will be able to line up the numbers correctly. I provide her with a visual number model with the places marked. In addition, I give her graph paper to solve problems that involve computing. This helps her to align the numbers. If she is a younger child then I enlarge the boxes for her. I also have her use lined paper and turn it vertically. This helps her to be more precise and avoid making careless errors.

I use concrete hands-on materials such as manipulatives and number lines to help your child to visualize concepts. These make the learning process a lot more interesting as well. They stimulate curiosity; therefore there is a great chance that she will remember concepts over time. Your ADD child may experience difficulty with abstract concepts, especially if she has other language and/or learning disabilities. If this is the case, then she will benefit from multi-sensory tools. I use these tools to engage all of her senses through real experience. For example, if the problem involves understanding the concept of the area of a cube, I have your child examine a cube figure. She sees
how many sides it has, says it, and writes it. Then she compares it to other three dimensional figures.

It is important that the child develop the habit of checking her own work. Sometimes students miss mistakes because they are not sure how to check their work. It is helpful to provide your child with a list of steps so that she knows what to look for. She can check off each area that is correct and circle any errors. Then she should go back and fix any errors.

Assistive Technology
In Math Therapy your child learns how to use a calculator. Sometimes a calculator is useful in order for your child to solve problems on tests. Other assistive technology can be used, such as computer software, which teaches concepts and provides your child with review and feedback. One such program is Flashmaster. This is a handheld device for children to practice number drills.

In order to build math fluency I do verbal and written math drills with your child. I use flash cards along with the drills. I often adapt the flash cards into games. Once your child masters a skill in isolation, I combine it with old skills (mixed practice).

Numbering Steps
In Math Therapy I have your child practice breaking down math tasks into steps. Your child sees, writes, and states the steps. Sometimes she is given an outline and asked to write a paragraph describing the sequence of directions to follow for a type of problem; for example "How to Solve an Addition Problem with Borrowing".

Visual Cues
I use visual cues which indicate to your child what to do, where, when, and in what order. Providing these cues is very helpful, especially for word problems. They enhance your child's ability recall information. Visual cues are in the form of pictures, symbols, a line of text, etc. An example of a visual cue is an arrow, which shows the child where to begin a problem and the direction in which to proceed.

I provide your child with a model for each type of problem. The information is presented in a way that it is very clear and simple. I use colors to emphasize important details. I also draw pictures to help her visualize the concepts. After the information is presented she is given ample time to do practice problems.

Number Lines
A number line is used to help your child learn to add and subtract. It helps her to visualize, conceptualize and to physically carry out the process of simple calculation. The numbers on the line are written in large print and bolded for easy recognition.

Mnemonic Devices
A mnemonic device is a line of text in which the first letter of each word has a meaning related to a specific skill. It is made up of a phrase that is humorous, interesting, and simple so that the child will remember it easily. An example of a mnemonic device would be PEMDAS. It stands for Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally. The first letter of each of these words stands for the order of operations (Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication, Divide, Add, and Subtract). I often use mnemonic devices to help your child to remember the steps to solve problems.

Charts and Graphic Organizers
Charts and organizers are good for arranging and categorizing information in a logical way. One example of a chart for math is a multiplication table chart. In Math Therapy your child learns how to use this chart effectively. Doing so requires attention to details. She uses her finger to track the numbers one row at a time and to locate specific facts. Another task for which an organizer is helpful is solving word problems. They involve the use of reasoning and critical thinking. They also require a lot of attention to detail and multiple steps. Therefore, they can be
especially challenging for the child with ADD. To make this task easier I have your child use an organizer or flow chart. This helps her to process the information step by step.

Finger Tricks
In Math Therapy your child learns to use her fingers to do tricks to solve certain problems. The tricks are fun and help her to gain confidence. An example of a trick is one that uses the 9x rule. This one can be worked out on the hands. This involves using two hands. First your child spreads out two hands, then to multiply 9 by 3, she folds down the 3rd finger from the left. She then sees 2 on the left and seven after that. Similarly if the problem is 9x4, it would be the 4th finger from the left, and so on. This works up to 9 times 10.

Time Management
If your child has ADD she may have difficulty sitting for extended periods. For such a child I give short scheduled breaks. This makes it easier for her to focus her attention.

Vocabulary Cards
Math involves the use of vocabulary words and terms. In Math Therapy your child builds knowledge of math terms. Through the use of cards which are placed in categories, by skill. The definitions are written in simple language and often accompanied by pictures so that it is easy for her to understand. Old terms are reviewed with your child, in addition to spending time on the new words.

I give your child strategies to organize her workspace so that it is organized, clutter free, and has limited distractions. It is helpful for her to prepare and organize the materials she needs on a daily basis ahead of time. They should be in a place where she can reach them easily. This way she feels more relaxed, focuses better, and learns more effectively

Strategies Lead to Results
By practicing these strategies in math therapy and incorporating them into your child's academic routine on a consistent basis; she decreases her feelings of frustration and anxiety, as well as avoidance behavior. The negative feelings associated with math are replaced by ever increasing confidence and a willingness to take risks.

Melissa Katz is an educational therapist. She is located in New Hyde Park, NY. She has been private practice over fifteen years. She does reading therapy, educational therapy, teacher and parent training, conference presentation and consulting in Long Island and NYC. She has created and uses the TOPSMARTS approach for Educational Therapy. Her academy training includes Orton-Gillingham and Wilson Reading in addition to multi-sensory writing, skill-building, and multi-sensory math. She can be contacted at Her website is

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