How to teach math facts to an autistic child

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

If you’re getting ready to teach math to a student with autism, you’ll soon discover that there will be a lot of exciting, a-ha moments, as well as a few challenges along the way. However, employing specific strategies and getting to know your child on an academic level can help make the experience enjoyable for both of you and help you overcome any obstacles like a pro.

This page provides useful information that can benefit anyone who is teaching math to a child with autism. You’ll discover why some students with autism excel in math, what to look for in a math curriculum, and how Time4Learning can help your student with autism succeed.

Autism and Math

Evidence in the last few years has suggested that children with autism may have certain cognitive strengths in mathematics. A study published in Biological Psychiatry in 2013 seems to coincide with that theory.

Researchers found that certain parts of the brain in children with autism are activated when solving math problems, and that they tend to use different approaches when solving these problems when compared to students without autism. In the study, the children with autism used decomposition when solving addition problems twice as much as the typically developing students in the study. This strategy involves breaking down each problem into smaller problems to find the answer.

How to Teach Math to a Child With Autism

Since Autism Spectrum Disorder is so wide ranging, there really isn’t one particular method to teach math to students with autism. As with students in general, each child has his or her own preferred way of learning, with their own individual strengths and weaknesses. Getting to know your child on various levels will give you better insight as to what teaching method will work best.

Time4Learning’s online curriculum does, however, provide visual representation and grouping, which is similar to the use of physical manipulatives in the classroom which are often beneficially used by children on the spectrum. As many students on the spectrum see and understand things physically and literally, it helps to display an actual representation of the number of items you are adding, subtracting or multiplying. As students transition into the older grade levels which introduce word problems, Time4Learning also provides families with additional free tools.

Teaching math to students with autism can be aided by following these strategies:

  • Identify your child’s interest and use it to teach math concepts.
  • Capitalize on their visual-spatial learning style by using multimedia teaching tools.
  • List out math facts so your child can easily refer to it whenever they need.
  • Teach math concepts through visual examples and pair them with verbal instructions for those that are partially verbal or non-verbal.
  • Make teaching math fun by playing games with flash cards, apps, or an online curriculum.
  • Use technology to help those students whose fine motor skills aren’t as developed.
  • Provide praise as often as possible to keep students motivated.
  • Use multiple-choice format rather than yes or no questions.

Math Curriculum for Students With Autism

When teaching math to students with autism, math curriculum choice is critical. Finding a math curriculum for students on the spectrum doesn’t need to be a taxing chore. Employing proven and research-backed strategies can help make the teaching and learning process for both parties less stressful and a lot more enjoyable.

When trying to find the ideal math curriculum for students on the spectrum ask yourself:

  • What are my child’s math learning strengths?
  • Can I modify the math curriculum to focus on those strengths?
  • How does the math curriculum address my child’s areas of weakness?

Answering these questions will give you a huge advantage when looking through math programs for students with autism.

How Time4Learning Curriculum Helps Students with Autism

Time4Learning is an award-winning, online curriculum that has received the distinction of being a Certified Autism Resource by IBCCES. Our interactive curriculum teaches students through engaging lessons using a student-paced approach, which includes access to multiple grade levels at a time. This ensures a strong foundation and closes gaps that may have been missed in previous grade levels.

The fun, interactive nature of Time4Learning appeals to students with autism since it offers a visually appealing presentation that captures their attention and motivates them to learn. Lessons and activities are brief, usually no longer than several minutes, and parents have the option to have their children redo activities, skip specific lessons, and more. Just as well, parents having access to the answer keys for tests and quizzes in Time4Learning assists them in aiding their intuitive math students, without having to review the lessons themselves.

Time4Learning’s math curriculum offers activities that benefit students on the spectrum with these key features:

  • Student-paced, online learning program delivers customized instruction.
  • Focuses on fundamental math concepts to help develop strong math skills.
  • Brief lessons, activities and practice opportunities focus on core content to ensure mastery and retention.
  • Designed to allow students to progress at their own pace with the option to redo activities and retake tests.
  • Automated record keeping allows parents to track student progress and quickly identify problem areas.

Take a closer look at how our curriculum can help your child excel by trying our lesson demos.

This essential subject is one of the three R’s:  reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic.  It’s basic knowledge that all our kids need to know to function as normally and as independently as possible.

You want your child to be able to count, to recognize numbers, and to at least do some basic addition and subtraction.  If you can possibly move your child on to multiplication and division, that would be wonderful, too.

If your child is an arithmetic genius, then great!  That’s his strength, and you can encourage him in that. 

But if he doesn’t ever master calculus or differential equations, or even algebra, not to worry. Math wasn’t my subject either. 

Let your child’s abilities and strengths be your guide, and bring her as far as she can go.  But don’t sweat it if she has a lot of trouble along the way.

All your child really needs to function independently in this world are the basics.  So if this isn’t her subject, it’s okay if all she learns is addition and subtraction.

Just approach teaching your child with autism math skills as you should approach anything else you do with her:  with lots of love and patience.

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

How and What to Teach

Below I’m listing various basic math skills and methods you can use to teach your child.  I’ll explain each subject further on separate pages, so just follow those links to learn more.

But I highly recommend that you start with the first link listed below to learn an important principle for teaching children with autism math.

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

Not to worry. Unless your child loves higher math, basic lessons such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are probably all she will need.

What You Need to Know When Teaching Your Child With Autism Math

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

Teaching children with autism math is simple and do-able if you follow some key principles. Following these guidelines will make this subject easier to understand and will help to ensure your child’s success in learning the basics and more.

Math Flash Cards

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

We used flash cards extensively when my son was young.  They were great tools for learning and giving him lots of review.  You can use them for learning anything from number recognition and counting to calculus, if your child goes that far. 

Abacus

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

I used an abacus a lot to help my son understand what the numbers and equations meant, and to learn counting.  Check out this article for tips on how to use an abacus effectively.

Learning Single-Digit Addition Equations

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

Once your child has a better understanding of basic arithmetic concepts, you can start working on helping him memorize addition math facts. Check out  this article  for ideas on how to help him at this stage.

Adding Two Digits to One Digit

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

After she has memorized the addition facts, the next step is to teach her to add two digits to one digit.  Learning this skill brought us to a pitfall that I want to warn you about.  It’s a problem that I think is unique to autism.

Adding Two Digits to Two Digits

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

The pitfall you might encounter when your child is learning to add two digits to one digit can continue on as she learns to add two digits to two digits.  But patience, persistence, and lots of practice are key here. Check out  this article  to learn more.

Teaching Your Child Subtraction: A Step-By-Step Procedure

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

If you need to know a procedure for teaching subtraction facts that is well-suited for children with autism, then  this is the article for you.

Here I will walk you through a step-by-step procedure that will help your child not only learn subtraction facts, but also understand exactly what each equation means.

Tips and Principles to Help Your Child Better Understand Subtraction

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

Put the step-by-step procedure you learn in the above article with the  ideas and principles  you can learn  here  and you will be well-set to teach your child in a way that he or she can truly understand.

Games

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

Do you ever have trouble getting or keeping your child’s interest in mathematics? I think a lot of kids find it hard to stay on task when it comes to this subject. Games can be very useful for keeping your child’s attention on what you’re teaching her.  Click here  to find out how to use games to keep your child focused on her lessons.

Free Math Worksheets

Many parents want to provide a quality education for their children, but this can be a challenge when money is tight. That’s why finding as many free and inexpensive resources as possible can be so helpful. 

Mary Fifer, an experienced teacher and homeschooler, has lots of free math worksheets you can download at her site here . Also available at her website are free spelling, phonics, grammar and writing worksheets.

Do you need help learning how to teach your child with autism math facts? In this article, I’ll share with you how I taught my son the addition facts. The same method could be applied to subtraction, multiplication, and division facts. 

As you know, most children with autism probably won’t be able to sit down with a list of addition or multiplication facts and memorize them on their own.

Our kids need a good bit of extra help, and I’ll show you what worked for us.

First of all, I must point out that I used a variety of techniques to help my son remember these concepts. We began with concrete examples as I explain below.

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

Start With Concrete Examples

Before attempting to teach your child with autism math facts, it’s important to begin by showing him what these equations mean.

If you chose to, you could start by simply having him memorize addition facts. But the problem is that many children with autism will see the symbols and not know what the equations mean.

One study among others shows that concrete examples help children with autism understand abstract concepts.

Concrete examples can take many forms, such as blocks, beads, tokens, pieces of food, or even small toys. You can use these materials to count out equations so he can see that two blocks plus three blocks equals five blocks.

We also used an  abacus  for this purpose. I highly recommend an abacus since it is a tool designed for giving your child a visual example of a math problem. 

This article gives you a step by step procedure for modeling an equation using an abacus or other concrete example such as blocks or beads. If you haven’t seen it or if you need a refresher, you can find it here.

Once I was confident that he understood what the written equations stood for, it was time to help him memorize them.

How I Taught My Son With Autism Math Facts

I followed this simple procedure successfully to teach my son with autism math facts (addition), and I must say, it worked quite well for him.  So well, in fact, that I plan to do this for subtraction, multiplication and division facts as well.

  1. Call out in consecutive order each equation in the zero series.  That is, 0+0=0, 0+1=1, all the way to 0+10=10.  As you call out each equation, have her write each one down (or have her type them on the computer).
  2. Repeat step 1 every day.  Eventually start leaving out the answers to see if she knows them.
  3. Now mix up the order and call them out that way.  0+5= , 0+2= , etc.  Give help as needed.
  4. Also supplement with other activities for review such as flash cards.
  5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 for the one series:  1+0=1, 1+1=2, all the way to 1+10=11.
  6. Repeat steps 1 through 4 for the two’s, three’s, etc. until she has learned the ten’s.
  7. (Optional) If you want to, you can also teach her the eleven’s and twelve’s.  It certainly can’t hurt, and it may be very helpful for her.

Teach Them in Order First

I found that first teaching the equations in consecutive order was helpful for my son. It presented the task in an organized fashion for him.

But soon he became too dependent on that ordering of the equations.  Take a look at the sequence below:

Predictably, he soon figured out that the answers were in consecutive order.  All he had to do was know how to count, and he would have all the right answers.

Of course, that’s not what we wanted.  He needed to know these equations regardless of the order in which they were presented.  So we had to mix up the order.

Mixing up the equations did throw him off at first.  But with a lot of patience and review, he learned them quite well.

Although your child may have different needs, I tend to think that most children with autism need that orderly presentation at first.  I believe it gives them an organized, better understanding of the math facts.

But once he learns them in that order, I would suggest mixing them up to be sure he knows them regardless of the order in which you present them.

Use Music to Review Equations

The video above is part 1 of an addition facts series. The Jack Hartmann Kids Music Channel on YouTube also features parts 2 and 3, which cover addition facts all the way through the tens.

Using music for memorization is a proven, effective method for learning many things. Music makes learning just about anything easier. For example, the tune from the alphabet song is commonly used to help kids learn their letters.

So here we have yet another way to review the math facts.  As I’ve stated earlier, it’s helpful to find different ways to reinforce these concepts.

Flash cards  are also very helpful, and I highly recommend using them as well. Here I explain how I used flash cards to teach my son with autism math facts and other basic concepts.

What’s Next?

Once my son learned his basic addition facts, I started teaching him double-digit addition, which involved some unique challenges for a person with autism.

Once I move on to subtraction, I plan to go back to showing him the equations on the abacus . I want to be sure he understands what these equations mean.  I also plan to do the same when we start learning multiplication and later on, division.

Teaching children with autism math facts can take a lot of time, patience and effort.  But if we keep working at it, even for a few minutes every day, I think they will surprise us with what they can do.

Within the next few months, I plan to publish a book explaining how to teach your child with autism basic math skills. If you would like to be informed of when the book is available for purchase and about tips and updates to this site, scroll to the top of this page and sign up for our newsletter.

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

Math facts are basic calculations that children can learn in order to help them do arithmetic more quickly. By committing math facts to memory, they can be recalled fluently so attention is freed for working on higher order math functions.

Drills are often the first thing that comes to mind, but the goal for parents and teachers is to help children automatize these facts in as painless of a way as possible – even better if it can be fun!

Teaching math facts

What to teach first

Addition and subtraction math facts are typically learned first, followed by multiplication and division. As in most areas of mathematics, learning is cumulative, and one thing builds on another.

Teaching math facts to students

Math facts can be thought of as the basic building blocks of math.

The more fluent and accurate a child’s knowledge of them, the more confidently and quickly they can work through problems.

So, what’s the best way to teach them?

There is no one right way and the approach you take may be different depending on your learner.

First, information must pass from short to long-term memory. To automatize a fact, it then needs to be encountered and recalled frequently enough so production happens quickly and effortlessly.

One of the best ways for a teacher to ensure learning has taken place is to see if learners have productive knowledge of a math fact. Can they recite it aloud or write it out?

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

traditional drill like this feel more fun.

Make use of magnetic numbers. Another tactile way of practicing math facts is with magnetic numbers. You can also use foam numbers on a wet surface or have them arrange wooden numbers on a table.

The best part of learning and rehearsing facts this way is students’ errors are easily corrected through re-arranging the numbers, avoiding the stigma of erasers and red pens.

Just make sure to purchase two or more sets of magnetic numbers so you can create equations in which a digit appears more than once, for example 1 + 1 = 2.

Say them aloud. Reciting math facts aloud is a great way to commit them to memory, especially for students who are auditory learners or those who struggle with processing visual information.

Prompt the child to recite the entire fact then provide the correct answer orally if needed. Often students who are struggling to remember a fact can hear your voice or their own rehearsing it.

Math education doesn’t have to take place at a desk. Rehearsing facts while on the go, in the shower or even at the supermarket can make for an engaging approach.

In the classroom, a teacher may have learners chant the math facts as a group. You can even create a game in which two teams compete and must say the fact in a particular way, whisper it, sing it, shout it etc. This is a fun way to practice.

Type them out. For kids who struggle with handwriting, and/or speech production, touch-typing is often an effective approach for practicing newly learned information.

In the Touch-type Read and Spell program, the math fact appears on the screen. It is then read aloud, and the student must type it out at the same time, using the correct finger positions.

This type of multi-sensory drill has proven effective for committing information to memory. This is because it brings together visual, auditory and tactile stimuli to help math facts ‘stick.’

It’s also a great way to work on number spelling!

Show them on a calculator. You can play a calculator game where a learner is given a sheet of facts to enter and must guess before confirming their answer on the calculator.

This gives students a measure of control in checking their own work and makes it easier for the teacher to see where more practice is needed.

In the classroom, a teacher can divide learners into two groups where each group is responsible for setting up a math fact equation for the other group to solve using the calculator.

Arrange objects on a flat surface. From food to buttons, recreating math facts this way can help visual and tactile learners commit them to memory.

Also note this can work well for students who struggle with hyperactivity as it gives them a chance to move during a lesson.

Another kinetic learning activity is to give students flashcards and get them to arrange the cards (or themselves holding the card) in groups based on shared factors.

Mixing up the order in which students learn and practice facts is important. It’s also good to allow learners a measure of creativity in an otherwise rote-learning task. For example, you could have learners illustrate math facts through drawing or painting.

You might get them to create their own rhyme or song, such as three little birds sat on a wall, two flew away and then there was one. Many nursery rhymes use this tactic to teach math but it’s always fun to give kids a chance to write their own.

How to teach math facts to an autistic childdyscalculia be given a calculator as a classroom accommodation to help them access high order math lessons.

Dyslexia

Individuals who have dyslexia may struggle with math facts. They can be prone to reversing digits and/or changing the order of numbers when working on an equation.

Word problems are often particularly difficult for students with dyslexia.

Visual processing difficulties

Visual processing difficulties affect an individual’s ability to makes sense of visual information.

This means learners have a harder time interpreting math symbols, including numbers and letters on the page.

Slow processing

Children with slow processing speed can have trouble performing math operations as they struggle to hold multiple pieces of information in memory at the same time.

Learning math facts is especially important, but this too can take longer and require more drills and repetitions to automatize learning.

Math anxiety

Math anxiety can cause a learner to experience a mental block which may cut off access to learned information, like math facts. Anxiety typically affects learners during timed assessment situations.

Keep in mind, just because production is interrupted, it does not mean the individual has not learned the math facts.

Dyspraxia

Dyspraxia is a fine-motor skills difficulty that can make writing by hand, painful. Individuals with dyspraxia may additionally have problems with sequencing, which can cause them to struggle in multi-step math problems.

If you’re preparing to teach arithmetic to a kid with autism, you’ll quickly learn that there will be plenty of wonderful a-ha moments as well as a few hurdles. Using precise tactics and getting to know your child on an academic level, on the other hand, can make the experience more pleasurable for both of you and help you overcome any barriers with ease.

This page contains information that will be helpful to anyone teaching math to a child with autism. You’ll learn why certain autistic students excel in arithmetic, as well as what to look for in a math curriculum.

MATH AND AUTISM

In recent years, evidence has revealed that children with autism may have specific mathematical cognitive skills. That theory appears to be supported by a study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry in 2013.

When children with autism solve math problems, particular regions of their brain are stimulated, and they employ different techniques to solve these problems than pupils without autism, according to researchers. In the study, children with autism employed deconstruction twice as much as typically developing kids when solving addition problems. To obtain the answer, this technique includes breaking down each problem into smaller ones.

HOW TO TEACH MATH TO AN AUTISTIC CHILD

Because Autism Spectrum Disorder is so diverse, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to teaching math to students with autism. Each child, like all students, has his or her own preferred method of learning, as well as unique talents and shortcomings. Getting to know your child on a variety of levels will help you determine which teaching style will be most effective. Many online curricular sites, on the other hand, provide visual representation and grouping, which is similar to the usage of physical manipulatives in the classroom, which is frequently beneficial to children on the spectrum. Because many kids on the spectrum view and understand things in physical terms, displaying an actual representation of the number of items you’re adding, removing, or multiplying can be helpful.

Following these ideas can help you teach math to students with autism:

  • Find out what your youngster enjoys doing and utilize that to teach math principles.
  • Use multimedia teaching tools to capitalize on their visual-spatial learning style.
  • Make a list of arithmetic facts for your youngster to refer to anytime they need them.
  • Teach arithmetic topics using visual examples and spoken directions for students who are partially verbal or nonverbal.
  • Playing games using flashcards, apps, or an online curriculum can make teaching arithmetic more enjoyable.
  • Use technology to assist children with less developed fine motor skills.
  • To keep students motivated, provide praise as often as feasible.
  • Instead of asking yes or no questions, use a multiple-choice approach.

MATH CURRICULUM FOR AUTISTIC STUDENTS

Arithmetic curriculum selection is crucial when teaching math to students with autism. Finding a math curriculum for autistic pupils doesn’t have to be a difficult task. Using tried-and-true tactics can make the teaching and learning process less stressful and a lot more pleasurable for both parties.

When looking for the best math curriculum for autistic pupils, consider the following questions:

  • What are my child’s strengths in math?
  • Is it possible to change the math curriculum to emphasize certain skills?
  • In what ways does the math program address my child’s weak spots?

When looking for math programs for students with autism, answering these questions will give you a major advantage.

3 WAYS TO TEACH MATH

PRINCIPLE OF CONCRETE TO ABSTRACT

The concrete-to-abstract principle, as the name implies, entails starting with concrete instances and gradually progressing to more abstract concepts.

You may easily accomplish this by allowing youngsters to see, feel, touch, and even smell many objects in their environment. Teach kids how to play with the objects while applying fundamental math operations like addition once they’re comfortable with them.

You can, for example, play with food toys. Request five food items, three bananas, and two apples from the child. Before attempting to solve addition problems on paper, just introducing numbers while playing with physical items will help the youngster become more comfortable and intuitively grasp some basic addition processes. You may also use transitional items like flashcards and an abacus, which we’ll go over later, to gradually move from real things to pen and paper.

PRINCIPLE OF FAMILIARITY

Because arithmetic is all around us, it is simple to introduce math principles into a child’s daily life. This will assist them in learning without becoming frustrated or overwhelmed. Where do I begin? “Doesn’t this plate look like a circle?” is a good place to start with the association. Do you see a rectangle in this structure? Is there anything in this room that is formed like a triangle? “Could you please bring me three toys?” Before you show them the flashcards or worksheets, children will learn how to recognize and understand math concepts by simply using them in everyday life.

THE PRINCIPLE OF GENERALIZATION

The generalization concept is another notion that can be quite useful when teaching arithmetic to students with autism. To put it another way, utilizing multiple diverse instances of the same concept to assist children to understand that the principle applies to a wide range of items, not only apples, for example.

This is especially advantageous because children with autism frequently have difficulty “generalizing” skills and information. What we mean is that autistic children may be extraordinarily skilled at something or know a lot about something under certain circumstances, but when those circumstances change or the scenario changes, they have trouble exhibiting their skill or knowledge.

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Math Curriculum for Autistic Children

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

Math Curriculum for Autistic Children

Autistic children can struggle to learn math concepts because of language barriers or other learning difficulties. Choosing the right math curriculum for autistic children will help them overcome these barriers to learning. The math curriculum you use needs to teach foundational concepts in a logical order, building solid understanding before moving on to more advanced concepts. It should also have good visuals, and use manipulatives and simple games to reinforce understanding.

No matter what curriculum you choose, keep in mind that you will need to be flexible while you use it with your child, modifying it as necessary to make sure your child is learning and understanding the concept being taught in each lesson, as described here. Everything discussed below would make good math curriculum for autistic children.

Singapore Math- Math in Focus

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

Math in Focus has a very solid approach with simple but colorful illustrations. There is a textbook* with coordinating workbook*, so you learn the concept in the textbook with some exercises and activities, and then have additional activities to reinforce learning in the workbook.

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

The book does encourage you to work with manipulatives on some of the problems, including MathLink Cubes*. You will want to modify with additional manipulatives or visual aids as required to make the lesson more 3D and reinforce the concepts.

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

Math-U-See

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

Math-U-See is one of the most frequently recommended math curriculum for autistic children because of the heavy emphasis on mastering math facts while using manipulatives. There are instructional videos that go with each lesson. You can take a placement test to determine which level to begin with. Level Alpha covers addition and subtraction of single digit numbers and other topics. There is a big emphasis on committing the addition and subtraction facts to memory.

Miquon Math

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

Miquon Math series* is a hands-on approach intended to be used with Cuisenaire Rods*. It is designed for younger children but can be adapted to any age. Miquon Math has an emphasis on learning through exploration, with the rods being used independently as well as on the activity pages.

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

There is a teacher’s manual* that explains how to use each activity page, and it covers all the workbooks in the series. The first workbook is The Orange Book*, which begins with counting, number lines, equalities and inequalities, addition, subtraction, etc.

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

Right Start Math

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

Right Start Math* has a heavy emphasis on manipulatives*, including using an abacus* to visualize the problem. Math review is provided with games instead of worksheets or flash cards. There are games in the manual, with extra math card games* for levels C to E. Right Start Math discourages using counting to solve addition and subtraction problems because it is slow and inaccurate, instead teaching visualizable five- and ten-based strategies.

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

Supplemental Resources

You really do need to own a good curriculum, such as one of the above, that you can consistently work through. It just isn’t sufficient to hobble along with a little math game or activity here and there. However, there are days when you need a different approach to the same topic. That is where the resources below come in!

Picture books

I love using a good picture book to teach a new concept, and that applies to math too. They usually come with charming text and pictures that draw your child in and help them understand better. You can find picture books for all kinds of math concepts, such as skip counting or addition. You can see my post about our favorite math picture books. Also, Read Aloud Revival has a great list of math picture books.

Math Games

Games are a GREAT way to reinforce learning. You can make up basic games with supplies you have on hand for the concept you are working on- or you can find great ideas in Games for Math* by Peggy Kaye. It has games for teaching concepts from Kindergarten through 3 rd grade.

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

Kahn Academy

Kahn Academy is a free online resource that has short math lessons with videos and then problems for the child to do. I wouldn’t advise using it for your primary curriculum, but it can be a great resource if you need a video to reinforce a concept.

The BEST math curriculum for autistic children

…is the one that you have and use. You could be successful with any of the choices listed above. Remember, keep the lessons short, keep them fun and visual, and do it every day for the best results!

*Disclosure: While I only recommend products I think will truly be helpful in homeschooling an autistic child, there are some affiliate links in this post. I may receive a small commission for purchases made through affiliate links, but at no extra cost to you.

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

Many children struggle with learning disabilities that can hinder their ability to process and understand information. Dyscalculia is a developmental disorder that involves difficulty conceptualizing and performing mathematics. The following are several practical ways that parents can help a child who struggles with dyscalculia.

Play With Dominoes
Playing games that use dominoes can help a child more easily understand simple math concepts. Specialist Ronit Bird states that a child should learn to recognize the number patterns on the dominoes and dice instead of counting the individual dots each time. Start by using dominoes and dice by themselves so your child feels comfortable with these objects. Next, find a game your child enjoys that uses these items.

Resist Using Worksheets
Whenever possible, parents should play games with their children to reinforce math facts instead of relying on worksheets. Games are almost always more interesting for kids. They present math as fun challenges to solve instead of boring concepts to memorize. If worksheets are used, it may be necessary to highlight important numbers in the instructions and throughout various problems. Allow your child to use a variety of colored pencils when completing worksheets, as it may help them more easily organize their work.

Use Manipulatives
Seeing and handling a tangible object will help a child better understand the abstract principles of mathematics. Legos and simple blocks can be used to teach addition and subtraction. TheSchoolRun.com suggests using a counter when working with children. Actually covering a certain number of counters with your hands will enable your child to more easily visualize different groups of numbers.

Learn the Language of Math
Parents should encourage their child to talk out loud as they work through a problem or new math concept. Children who struggle with math may have good language skills that could help make the mathematical process easier. It’s a good idea for children to learn several synonyms for a variety of math terms. For example, when discussing addition problems they could use terms such as “plus,” “increase” and “more than.” Explain basic terms to your child and allow them to talk about each definition, describing what it means in their own words.

Create Visual Models
While this is similar to using manipulatives, creating visual models can expand beyond working with basic handheld objects. Understood.org advises moving around large objects in a room or drawing pictures to vividly explain aspects of math problems. Even simple household objects such as different colored socks or pairs of shoes can be used to teach addition and subtraction.

Use Accommodations
Accommodations can include everything from circling keywords in math sentences to giving your child extra paper to work out math problems. You should also discuss with your child’s teacher accommodations that can be implemented at school. A few include extra time given for tests and access to a math resource room if one is available. The school may also allow a child with dyscalculia to use a calculator when working on daily math problems as well as tests.

Teach Toward Understanding
While learning math can be broken into sections, it’s always a good idea to have the end goal in mind. Memorizing facts — such as multiplication tables — is a good idea, but simply memorizing facts won’t always lead to real understanding of a math concept or process. Start by instructing your child to reason through a problem using logic instead of rote memorization. It’s also a good idea to memorize a few basic strategies that have wide application.

While each one of these strategies may not work with every child, finding even a few that do will likely go a long way in helping a child build their math skills. It’s important for parents to acknowledge the struggles and praise the progress that’s achieved with each new skill that their child masters.

Contact us today to schedule an assessment. You can also view the research and results of the program on the website.

Ann Logsdon is a school psychologist specializing in helping parents and teachers support students with a range of educational and developmental disabilities.

Emily is a board-certified science editor who has worked with top digital publishing brands like Voices for Biodiversity, Study.com, GoodTherapy, Vox, and Verywell.

Language and auditory processing deficits affect the ability to learn language and math concepts and solve problems. Students may have receptive or expressive language problems that not only substantially affect their learning but also impact their ability to express what they don’t understand or show how they solved problems.

As a parent, you may be wondering how to address these issues and help your child be successful. Here are some tips that you can utilize to help your child learn to work around their auditory processing difficulties or learning disability (LD) to successfully complete their math work.

Partner With Teachers

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

Matthias Tunger / LOOK-foto / Getty

All parents must be actively involved in their children’s education. This fact is especially true when kids have learning differences. To support your child’s learning at home, ask your child’s teacher to:

  • Provide you with scoring criteria as well as specify exactly what they want your child to do when completing their math work
  • Send you detailed instructions for homework
  • Show you examples of good work to clarify their expectations
  • Teach you the specific strategies they are using successfully with your child that also can be used at home

Use this information to help your child understand instructions and accurately complete their homework.

It's likely you will need to set aside time each night to help them with the math concepts they are learning at school. But, if you make this time together a regular part of your routine, your child will benefit from the repetition.

Use Hands-on Materials

Improve your child's understanding of math concepts by giving them tools that will support them as they learn math concepts.

  • Consider using flash cards to go over math facts that need to be memorized.
  • Incorporate computerized math toys and software with visual and auditory prompts, such as the GeoSafari Math Whiz, a portable game that teaches addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
  • Practice using a calculator.
  • Teach them math concepts using multisensory methods to stimulate their thinking skills.
  • Use familiar objects to set up and solve math problems. Items such as money, candy, or other small objects can be used to demonstrate concepts such as adding, subtracting, and fractions as well as show greater than, less than, and equal to.

If you're having trouble coming up with tools that will benefit your student, ask the teacher for suggestions on how to support your child at home. You also can ask a math tutor what they would recommend.

Re-Write Word Problems

How math word problems are written can have a significant impact on how well children can interpret and solve them, particularly for children with language disabilities. You can help by making your child's word problems more user-friendly.

  • Avoid double negatives such as "There are no cars that are not red."
  • Choose words the student already knows and can visualize.
  • Create active sentences such as "Joe drove the car" and avoid passive sentences such as "The car was driven by Joe."
  • Reduce the number of words in sentences, leaving only those words important to solving the problem.
  • Select simple commands where "you" is implied, such as "Add these numbers."
  • Use simple sentence structure including just the subject, verb, and object.
  • Use specific words and avoid pronouns.
  • Write the most important sentence first.

If you find that after re-writing math problems, your student has an easier time solving them, share this information with the teacher. You also might be able to request accommodations for word problems on tests and quizzes. Talk to your child’s educational team to determine if this is an option.

Provide Step-by-Step Models

For specific learning disabilities (SLDs) in basic math or applied math, provide step-by-step models demonstrating how to solve math problems. Math books often include word problems requiring the student to make leaps in logic to learn new skills without showing the steps required to do those problems.

This practice may frustrate students with language processing deficits because they have difficulty with the language-based mental reasoning skills needed to make those leaps.

Instead, provide the child with models to solve all types of problems included in the assignment so they can learn without language processing difficulties getting in the way.

Basically, using models in teaching kids math skills involves drawing boxes, rectangles, and other shapes to represent numbers. Doing so enables kids to break down math problems while comparing numbers, fractions, ratios, percentages, and more.

For parents who have never solved math problems using these tools and strategies, there may be a slight learning curve in implementing them to help your student. Ask the teacher to give you a quick tutorial or use online resources.

You also can look for YouTube videos to help you learn how to draw math models. Or, you might want to use Thinking Blocks on the website Math Playground, which provides sample models you can draw to help with basic math through algebra.

Request Modifications for Math

If your child has a diagnosed learning disability or has a Section 504 plan, request an IEP or Section 504 conference to discuss strategies to help your child.

Together, you and your child’s educational team can decide what needs to be incorporated into the plan to create a learning environment that benefits your student. Try to build a partnership between your family, your child’s teachers, the intervention specialists, and your advocate if you’re working with one.

A Word From Verywell

Children with learning disabilities often struggle with schoolwork, regardless of their intellectual abilities. For this reason, they need tailored learning strategies that not only help them meet their potential in the classroom but also guard against self-esteem issues down the road.

As a parent of a child with learning differences, you need to be persistent in ensuring that your child receives the help, support, and intervention they need both in the classroom and at home. Work with your child's educational team to build a partnership and to ensure your child gets all the support they need to succeed.

Then, supplement that support with activities at home. Together, you can ensure that your child learns how to be successful in spite of the challenges they face.

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

Behavior analysts working in public schools in the 1990s did not hear as much about autism as they do today. They would enter classrooms to work with children who usually were experiencing difficulty with behavior, but also demonstrated limited academic achievement. The analysts needed to figure out the best approach to educating these children.

Peggy Schaefer Whitby was one of those behavior analysts. She worked with children in the public school system who had significant behavioral challenges. She found that it worked to implement the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis to address the behavioral and communication skills of the children. Over the years, she applied them to more and more children, most of whom had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

“I loved teaching this group of kids because the strategies that I used worked so well,” she explained. “Then I realized there were no academic interventions out there.”

In early elementary school, children with high-functioning autism may be high performers. Once they arrive in middle school, though, they often hit a wall. In middle school, teachers expect more self-direction from students. The course work becomes more applied and abstract, particularly in mathematics. Children with austism often struggle in these modes of learning.

“We have an ‘I do, we do, you do’ approach.”

Schaefer Whitby is one of the few researchers investigating evidence-based strategies for teaching mathematics to children with austism. Most other research focuses on communication and social skills.

“There is a myth that children with autism are savants in mathematics,” Schaefer Whitby said. “Certainly there are people with autism who have savant-type skills, but these kids also struggle with mathematical learning. We have children who can count and memorize math facts, but struggle with application. Problem-solving also involves reading comprehension issues.”

Children can learn techniques for solving math problems. Some children experience minimal difficulty organizing the information in their minds and creating a strategy for a particular problem.

“We know that people with autism develop strategies,” Schaefer Whitby said. “They may not always develop the most effective strategies.”

Many teachers have used Solve It! to develop effective strategies for adolescent students with learning disabilities. Solve It! is a set of cognitive strategies for word-problem solving based on methods used by the best problem solvers. Schaefer Whitby applied it to students with autism.

Solve It! uses seven cognitive strategies, combined with metacognitive strategies, that essentially place the learner in the right mindset, or schema, to solve a problem. The seven cognitive strategies are: read, paraphrase, visualize, hypothesize, estimate, compute and check. Students memorize these steps using the pneumonic R.P.V.H.E.C.C. At each step the student uses metacognitive strategies of self-management, self-checking and self-evaluation.

To teach students with austism how to develop a useful approach to solving word problems, Schaefer Whitby had them watch how she solved a problem. As they “caught on” to her approach, they would solve a problem with her and, eventually, solve a problem independently.

“I embedded a rule — because kids with autism tend to like rules and will follow them — that they had to do each step,” Schaefer Whitby said.

Soon they solved problems using the new strategies without someone telling them how. After 10 days they consistently solved the problems correctly. In three weeks they applied the strategies to the general education setting. “I could see on their classroom papers where they wrote R.P.V.H.E.C.C. and checked off as they went along,” she said.

“We look at how these kids visualize and use schema.”

Students with high-functioning autism tend to read — and see the world — in a very literal and concrete manner. One of the word problems in Schaefer Whitby’s study described a person baking cookies. In this example, a student with good schema may visualize the cookies ordered on a pan, whereas a person without a good schema may draw a picture of Mom baking the cookies.

“There’s a lot of extraneous information in a word problem,” Schaefer Whitby said. “Our children have difficulty focusing on the relevant pieces.”

Solve It! requires paraphrasing to help the students identify the important facts in a word problem.

“We taught them to underline the important part of the questions, and they were able to do that,” Schaefer Whitby
said. “However, many of them struggled with putting the word problem into their own words. They wanted to repeat it exactly
as it was read.”

Children with austism may have poor schema that prevents them from visualizing what they need to solve the problem. This can occur in a simple multiplication problem. A student with good schema represents two times three as two sets of three. A student who does not have good schema may visualize two objects in one set and three in the other.

All of the study’s participants assumed, no matter the type of problem, that the order in which they entered numbers into a calculator did not matter. They followed rules and used strategies they were taught in elementary school that did not apply to higher-level mathematics.

“It is important for teachers to understand that we teach kids strategies when they are young that don’t really hold true as they get into more advanced mathematics,” Schaefer Whitby said. “We have to be careful telling kids with autism these rules because they will hold onto them and continue to use them.”

Schaefer Whitby, other researchers and autism specialists do not necessarily need to instruct students directly or continue instruction to ensure students maintain the strategies. There is another method that enables students to excel academically, even students who do not participate in research projects.

“If the child does not maintain the strategies, we look at procedural facilitation,” Schaefer Whitby explained. “I use a video model to teach the kids how to use the strategy and have it in the classroom so a teacher does not have to be there. You can use it as a video model in priming where the students watch it before they solve the problem. You can also use it as a video prompt where the students stop at each step to see how they solve the problem. My next research studies will be looking at that.”

“The research has implications for teachers and practitioners.”

More and more children are diagnosed with autism. Of all such children, around 30 percent are considered high functioning. They can attend school with the general populace, but many need cognitive strategy intervention like other students with learning disabilities.

“One of the young men that I worked with was brilliant,” Schaefer Whitby said. “He loved computers, but he only loved non-proprietary software because he can go in and change the code. So I had a 13-year-old who could do his own programming on non-proprietary software but who could not pass mathematics. What is the future for this child? If he cannot pass mathematics, he can’t get a regular high school diploma. Yet he could be the next Bill Gates.”

When math difficulties mean something more

What You'll Learn

  • What is dyscalculia?
  • Are all math problems dyscalculia?
  • How does dyscalculia affect kids?
  • Quick Read
  • Full Article
  • What is dyscalculia?
  • How common is it?
  • Are all math difficulties caused by dyscalculia?
  • What to look for
  • A noticeable gap
  • What’s the proper name for dyscalculia?
  • How is dyscalculia diagnosed?

Quick Read

Lots of kids struggle with math. But if your child’s math troubles are serious and don’t seem to get better, they may be a sign of something called dyscalculia.

Dyscalculia is a learning disability that makes it hard for kids to understand, learn and do math. Boys and girls are equally likely to have dyscalculia. It usually begins to show as soon as children start math classes in school. Dyscalculia is a specific learning disorder, which means it only affects how children learn math. A child with dyscalculia may do well in other subjects — like English or history — and still struggle in classes that use math.

Not all problems with math — even serious ones — are caused by dyscalculia. Disorders like dyslexia, visual or auditory processing issues, and ADHD can also make it hard to learn math. So what should parents watch for? Young kids with dyscalculia might have trouble recognizing numbers, learning to count, or recognizing basic patterns.

As kids get older they might have trouble remembering numbers (like zip codes or game scores) and have a hard time telling left from right or figuring out distances. Other signs include struggling with things like making change, reading clocks, or figuring out how long a task will take.

Lots of kids struggle with math, but for some the difficulties go beyond a little bit of frustration. If your child’s math troubles are serious — and persistent — they may be a sign of a learning disorder called dyscalculia.

What is dyscalculia?

Dyscalculia is a term used to describe specific learning disabilities that affect a child’s ability to understand, learn, and perform math and number-based operations.

How common is it?

Though research on prevalence is limited, it’s estimated that between 5 and 7% of elementary school aged children may have dyscalculia. It’s also currently thought that dyscalculia occurs equally in both genders.

Are all math difficulties caused by dyscalculia?

No. Not all difficulties in math class — even serious ones — are caused by dyscalculia. Disorders like dyslexia, visual or auditory processing, ADHD, and others can also impact a child’s ability to meet expectations in completing math problems. It’s also possible for kids who do have dyscalculia to have other learning disabilities as well. Many do.

What to look for

A young child with dyscalculia may:

  • Have difficulty recognizing numbers
  • Be delayed in learning to count
  • Struggle to connect numerical symbols (5) with their corresponding words (five)
  • Have difficulty recognizing patterns and placing things in order
  • Lose track when counting
  • Need to use visual aids — like fingers — to help count

And as math becomes a major part of the school day, kids with dyscalculia are likely to:

  • Have significant difficulty learning basic math functions like addition and subtraction, times tables and more
  • Be unable to grasp the concepts behind word problems and other non-numerical math calculations
  • Have difficulty estimating how long it will take to complete a task
  • Struggle with math homework assignments and tests
  • Have difficulty keeping at grade-level in math
  • Struggle to process visual-spatial ideas like graphs and charts

The impact of dyscalculia doesn’t stop when math class ends. The disorder can also affect kids outside of school. Children with dyscalculia also:

  • Have trouble remembering numbers such as zip codes, phone numbers, or game scores
  • Struggle with money matters such as making change, counting bills, calculating a tip, splitting a check or estimating how much something will cost.
  • Have difficulty judging the length of distances and how long it will take to get from one location to another
  • Struggle to remember directions
  • Have a hard time telling left from right
  • Get easily frustrated by games that require consistent score keeping, number strategies or counting
  • Have difficulty reading clocks and telling time

A noticeable gap

The biggest sign of a specific learning disorder is a notable discrepancy between ability and aptitude. A kid with dyscalculia may preform well in other subjects — such as English or history — but have very low grades in math and math-based classes.

What’s the proper name for dyscalculia?

In the DSM-5, dyscalculia is called “specific learning disability with impairment in mathematics,” but “dyscalculia” is still an accepted term and is used by schools and learning specialists.

How is dyscalculia diagnosed?

There is no specific test for dyscalculia. Taking the following steps can help you get your child the help and accommodations he needs.

  • Visit your doctor: Rule out any medical issues such as hearing or vision impairment that could be impacting your child’s learning process.
  • Consult with your teacher: Ask your child’s math teacher to note the areas where he has the most trouble, and any and all strategies that help.
  • Ask about other areas: It’s estimated that as many as half of kids with dyscalculia also have another learning issue. Understanding your child’s complete learning profile will help you advocate for his needs
  • Consult a specialist: Once you’ve done the groundwork, talk to a learning professional who can evaluate your child and give you specific feedback on how to help.

Video Resources for Kids

Teach your kids mental health skills with video resources from The California Healthy Minds, Thriving Kids Project.

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder which affects the child’s brain – thus hampering his or her developmental skills, such as social, communication, behavioral and even speech and language skills. Although the characteristics vary from child to child, many face problems while solving math sums. So it is your duty as a responsible teacher or a parent to give proper guidance to your child who is struggling with maths!

Identify your Child’s Interests

Children with autism often find interest in particular objects or items, such as coins or stamps. So it will be quite effective if you teach maths concepts with the help of these items for which some children might have a fascination. This procedure is practiced by many certified Special Educators at clinics dealing with autism treatment in Kolkata.

Use Visual Cues

Make things interesting for the child by trying innovative ways of teaching math concepts by using colourful diagrams and charts. For example, teaching maths with the help of charts denoting multiplication tables using different colourful fruits or vegetables will be very ‘fruitful’. You can also write down math facts or calculations in different coloured papers. Because most children think in images rather than in language! This is also one of the best and effective method for autism treatment in Kolkata.

Break It Down into Simple Steps!

Don’t make things too hard for the child! Break every problem sum down into simple steps so as to make it easier for the child. It is always advised by specialists at centres for autism treatment in Kolkata, that no child should ever feel that he or she is being pressurised against anything.

Explain Concepts

Explaining the ‘why’ of things have always been productive in teaching! So why not apply that in maths? Teaching why a particular method is done – rather than just explaining how it is done – will not only make things easier for the child, but he or she will also start loving maths! If possible, draw diagrams and explain why a particular method is prefered over the other!

With that being said, being a responsible Math Teacher for Special Children at any recognised clinic for autism treatment in Kolkata – it depends upon you how well you will implement these tips and make maths interesting for children with Autism – rather than fearing it!

  • September 13, 2018
  • Autism, Autism Care Center, autism rehabilitation center, autism spectrum disorder, Blog, rehabilitation center in kolkata, school for special children
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