Psychological Services

The Effect of ADD on Math Skills

Those diagnosed with genetic ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) will at some point in their math education experience some type of difficulty. The tendency is to have more difficulty with math as time goes on. Presumably this is due to the need to understand primary concepts that build upon one another with each grade. By junior high, math is based upon the knowledge of basic concepts the student is expected to have learned.

The best math books are those that provide a clear-cut definition or understanding of the concept being presented as opposed to continued application with more examples of math problems. Examples are not helpful for the ADD population, they do best with a logical explanation and the step by step procedure spelled out for them.

Difficulty or issues with math are often a key characteristic of individuals diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD). We have found that often spatial issues are behind the problem of understanding the math concept and being able to apply it easily.

Spatial issues are clearly seen in the columns that waver on the page when doing long division or solving complex math problems. Usually math becomes more problematic in junior high through college years than elementary years. However, part of the problem may be a lack of understanding of concepts taught during elementary years that the ADD child did not absorb; (they may have followed the math example without being aware of the concept they were supposed to be learning).

Suggestions are as follows:

  • Math books that provide the ‘‘pearls,’’ the specific principles being taught in separate clearly defined sentences (if this, then that).
  • Writing out those “pearls” makes them easier to understand taking no more than about five minutes to do.
  • Understand the “math words” used in the story problems.
  • Writing all of these ‘‘pearls’’ on note cards allows for an understanding of the relationships of math concepts in the big picture.
  • Fluency in math means over-memorization. Writing out the math facts until they are memorized.

Math skills difficulties seen as directly related to the spatial issues of ADD:

  • Reversing and interposing numbers
  • Difficulty interpreting graphs, tables and charts
  • Difficulty placing numbers in their appropriate position when completing mathematical computations.
  • Decoding the math story problem, defining the type of math operation that the story problem is referencing, figuring out what to do first, specifically whether to add, subtract, divide; and so on.