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ADHD and Math

Children with ADHD often have poorer math skills than their classmates. A recent study showed that children with ADHD had math achievement scores that were 8% to 10% lower than those of their peers.

Research has shown that children with ADHD may exhibit these math weaknesses:

  • procedural errors, such as subtracting a larger number from a smaller number
  • relying on finger counting
  • more talking out loud to guide actions, rather than using inner speech
  • slow speed
  • difficulty retrieving number facts, which is information that one "just knows" and does not need to work out (such as "three plus four is seven") easily and accurately
  • difficulty ignoring information that is not relevant in word problems 
  • difficulty solving problems with multiple procedures or steps

Children with ADHD may have difficulty with math for various reasons:

  • They may find it hard to solve problems systematically.
  • They may have trouble deciding whether a particular math strategy will be useful or not.
  • They may have difficulty remembering and using knowledge they learned earlier.
  • If they have language difficulties, they may have a hard time figuring out word problems.

Helping children with ADHD and math problems

In the classroom, the following strategies may help children with ADHD and math problems:

  • rewriting problems in simpler language
  • pointing out key words and concepts
  • giving handouts so that children do not need to copy from the board
  • explaining concepts in different ways, with links to "real-world" situations
  • instructing children in specific problem-solving strategies
  • helping children learn strategies with guided practice, review, feedback, and help
  • giving children many chances to participate and be involved with lessons, such as small group learning or peer tutoring
  • helping children express their understanding of concepts with guided questioning and support

 Academic Enablers–The parents’ role


​​Click on "CC" (closed captioning) for subtitles.​

These strategies are discussed in detail on the TeachADHD web site.

More information

Tara McAuley, PhD, CPsych

Peter Chaban, MA, MEd

Rosemary Tannock, PhD