View Full Version : Different perspectives of ADHDer on math - might help?

02-19-13, 02:28 AM
I know a lot of kids with ADHD hate math, but I loved it. When I was in high school, I tutored this kid who also had ADHD. He told me he never understood what the teacher was talking about, yet my explanations made sense.

I think I have an idea on how to explain the different perspectives of someone with ADHD and someone without - which would in turn help out with math skills. So, let me give it a try:

I'll use some basic fractions. When you first learn about them, it's a numerator (Top number) over a denominator (bottom number). The denominator are what pieces make up a whole, the numerator are how many of those pieces there are. Now I'll assume you understand grade school math and stop explaining there. :p (

And you know this is true: (

But why? Why is it if the numerator is bigger, you divide it by the denominator, and get that number?

How can improper fractions even exist? Numerators are supposed to be smaller than the denominator. You got more pieces than what a whole pie makes.

It was what my tutee asked.

I don't know how a teacher explains it, but I learned is just how it's done. Don't ask any more about math because you'll dive further into the bizarre concepts of chaos theory or infinity, irrational number-y stuff you will only ever skim if you decide to become a math professor. Only THEN can you fathom why you divide the numerator by the denominator. Just learn it like this. It's 'simple' enough anyway.

I mean, it's simple! How many times can you fit the number 4 into 9? 2 times. What's left after that? 1. Basic simple logic.

Buuuut no. I'm not going to give that for an answer.

So I drew this: (

Then he got it.

Nine pieces of 1/4 makes a total of two wholes, and one 1/4.

For my own case, right now I'm learning about vectors in calculus. At first I was totally confused, no matter what I read out of the textbook. I had to ditch the textbook, take out a piece of paper, and try to redraw it on a graph. Once I saw it visually, it made more sense. If a textbook doesn't fully explain how magnitude and directions are related to these vectors, I'm not going to see it my way. I gotta have it explained in detail, then I can visualize it. (Yay for google!)

Kids with ADHD aren't bad at math - we/they are just going to see it differently.

And to quote a certain someone:

“Everybody is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it'll spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein

02-20-13, 10:06 AM
Math U See is supposed to be very good for kids who are visual or kinesthetic learners. It uses a lot of manipulatives to explain the concepts, similar to what you've done here.

02-20-13, 11:33 AM
You are right! I wasn't good at math and I never had any mental images when manipulating numbers, maybe that's why it didn't mean anything to me and my math was a mess! You seem like a good tutor, all the tutoring my parents paid didn't help all that much..

02-20-13, 11:42 AM
I have to visualize math (and just about everything else that I ever try to learn) to be able to understand it, too. I was terrible at arithmetic, but I am pretty good at calculus, trig, and other more visual types of math.

02-20-13, 12:43 PM
Interestingly my ADHD son is awesome at math but my "typical" daughter is a strong visual learner and struggles with math. One of the things we've found that help her is the Khan Academy (free online) which uses a lot of visual aides like used above to teach math from kindergarten through college.

02-26-13, 04:23 AM
Love how Khan Academy poses one question at a time, offers you the ability to ask for help and even offers a video explanation.

02-26-13, 10:15 AM
I completely forget what an interger, numerator etc are. But I didn't learn even grade school math.

02-26-13, 03:30 PM
I find it difficult to remember the words they use because I "see" the numbers and operators and the way they interact. Somehow I don't like the word 'visualize' for this, because I don't actively paint the imagination in my mind. When I understand it I see it, and when I see it I understand it.

I tutor people ... by looking at the picture in my mind, and walking them through it until I can find the step they didn't understand. And then I zoom in and turn it around in my mind until I've found a way to explain how it fits together.

02-26-13, 05:17 PM
OP, where were you when I was learning fractions???
intersting I got an A in geometry because I could SEE it.

02-26-13, 06:26 PM
Former Math Ed Major here. I learned a lot about how to teach Math during my 2 and a half years at college, but none of it from my classes.

The reason that numbers are sometimes a hard thing to understand because they're an imaginary concept. You can't have 4, but you can have 4 oranges. Numbers need something real attached to them in order to make sense for a lot of kids.

02-27-13, 12:41 AM
Sometimes I don't understand why they go less for visual math in the first place: a lot of the higher leveled math courses that are focused in science rely heavily on visualization. Wouldn't it be better to help kids see things visually early on, instead of in an almost-pure standardized format? They should use both techniques, for whatever the kid has an easier time understanding.

I remember reading somewhere that there's a similarity to being lefty and having ADHD. If you're left hand dominant, aren't you more likely to learn things visually as well? It's easier to see things as a whole. Maybe the only reason those with ADHD have trouble with math is because it's being taught in a different from a way from what's easier to understand. (and to some math is boring. Can't force people to learn something they got no interest in)

In grade school, I remember we had these timed quizzes where we had to add/subtract/multiply/divide a set of problems. Simple things like 6x4 or 10-5. I never, never, EVER got a good score. I loathed those things. But that didn't mean I was bad at math...I was just good at a different kind of math. The visual concepts for math were easy.

02-27-13, 12:41 AM
Former Math Ed Major here. I learned a lot about how to teach Math during my 2 and a half years at college, but none of it from my classes.

The reason that numbers are sometimes a hard thing to understand because they're an imaginary concept. You can't have 4, but you can have 4 oranges. Numbers need something real attached to them in order to make sense for a lot of kids.

How about 4 units of space?

03-01-13, 10:21 AM
Awesome!! My DS has always been really great at math but he's getting frustrated with fractions. I just looked at the Khan Academy and I think this will work great for him. He loves doing math stuff on the computer and I think the videos and the way the questions are presented will really help him.


03-01-13, 12:19 PM
Can you come and tutor my son pleeeease?

03-04-13, 12:54 AM
Hm...getting back into a tutoring business is very, VERY tempting....

03-06-13, 11:59 PM
This was me, too. I always sweated bullets through flashcards and timed arithmetic tests, but I relished the word problems, because I could see how things worked. Geometry was definitely my favorite math class.

03-07-13, 03:36 PM
How about 4 units of space?
You're still attaching the number to something else. (units of space), a general, abstract idea, but again, you don't just have 4.

Ms. Mango
03-08-13, 04:32 PM
This is very timely as DS is just starting work on fractions (again--he also goes to an afterschool math enrichment program where they did a bit last year). Both programs are pretty visual. Last week he had a problem that looked very similar to the one you used.

He does much better at word problems than most kids, he's often able to immediately disregard the "fluff" that throws others off track. Also, I agree that information presented visually is easier to understand.

DS has a magnadoodle that we've kept. He doesn't play with it anymore but we use it a lot to illustrate math problems.