The current trend in math instruction emphasizes problem solving and meaningful instruction, which has led to a significant increase in the number of tasks that require students to plan, initiate, organize, prioritize, shift, and check their work. Therefore, students with learning differences, ADHD, and executive function weaknesses need alternative approaches in order to access the math curriculum.
Luckily, current research in the field of cognitive psychology can give math and special education teachers greater insight into how their students learn math. For example, an understanding of how developmental factors affect math performance will help teachers understand how different types of learning differences affect the acquisition of math skills, allowing for successful differentiated math learning strategies in the classroom.
In order to learn successfully, students with executive function weaknesses, math-based learning differences, or attention difficulties need tools such as direct strategy instruction, math-based schemas, and accommodations that are highly structured as well as appropriately challenging and engaging.
If a teacher can use these tools successfully, they can help students who are used to struggling in math rebuild their self-esteem. They will no longer perceive themselves as “dumb” or “bad at math.” Who knows, there may be a brilliant mathematical mind lurking in your math classroom, just waiting for the right strategy to unlock their gift!
- Joan Steinberg, M.Ed., Assistant Director of Education, Institute for Learning and Development
Looking for math strategies to reach all your students? Join Joan’s full-day workshop on November 2 at the University of New Hampshire. Learn more here.