The ADHD and Math Connection

By Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D.

Kids with ADHD often struggle with math. Difficulties with sustained attention, working memory (manipulating numbers in your head), organization and planning all interfere with math learning and performance. Starting from an early age, kids with ADHD struggle to memorize math facts and are prone to making errors on simple math problems (3-2=6). As they progress through school, they may struggle with word problems and more complex calculations by missing key details or having difficulty sequencing problem solving steps. As a result, it’s not uncommon for students with ADHD to be performing at least one year below grade level in math even when they don’t have a specific learning disorder. This can be incredibly frustrating for parents and teachers, and the student themselves – especially when they know that they are capable of doing better.

The relatively recent introduction of Common Core math has added another layer of complexity for kids with ADHD. Unlike older models of math instruction, which focused on rote memorization of math facts and mastery of basic computational models, Common Core math emphasizes the teaching of problem solving strategies. Students are often required to solve a single math problem in multiple ways so they learn different strategies for obtaining the answer. They may also be required to explain their process and strategy in writing. While a solid argument can be made for the value of the Common Core problem solving approach over traditional memorization and computation, students with ADHD often find the process tedious, redundant, and lengthy – three factors that severely tax their ability to stay on-task, focused, and motivated.

Although math may not come easily to kids with ADHD, most can perform at grade level with modified instruction and additional support. Pushing kids with ADHD to reach their full potential in math is important! Studies show that students who complete higher levels of math in high school fair better in the job market and earn higher salaries. So, while it may be tempting to let your child slide in math and allow him or her to focus instead on subjects that come more easily, you will help your child in the long run if you provide the math support he or she needs now.

Here are a few tips to help get your child on track and keep him or her going:

  • Identify your child’s math learning style. Is he or she a visual learner? Does he or she learn best by doing? Does he or she benefit from drawing or mapping out the process, or from having tangible items that can be manipulated? Do they need someone to verbally talk him or her through math logic and reasoning in a one-on-one or group setting? Then work with your child’s teacher to put strategies into place that match your child’s style.
  • Have your child memorize basic math facts. Have your child “overlearn” these facts so he or she can recall them quickly and easily. This will help him or her work through math problems more quickly, more confidently, and with fewer errors. It’s never too late to commit math facts to memory. So, if your child didn’t master them in elementary school, help your child do it now. Kids with ADHD may find it easier to memorize math facts using an app, like Sushi Monster or Math Board.
  • Help your child connect with math. Kids with ADHD find it easier to stay focused and motivated when they are interested in a subject. So, help make math interesting for your child! Math is essential to almost every aspect of our lives, including every sport, music, art, and technology-related interest that your child may have. Do search the web with your child to learn how math is important to the things he or she enjoys most. The University of Cambridge has some great online resources that really bring math to life. I especially love: Wild Maths, Plus Magazine, and the Math and Sport Millennium Mathematics Project.
  • Get extra support. Some kids with ADHD simply need extra support at school or afterschool from a learning center or tutor. Request an assessment and extra support from your child’s school if you think your child is not keeping up with his or her peers in math. If possible, find a learning center or tutor to provide extra support after school. Just make sure they have experience working with kids who have ADHD.

With extra support, encouragement, and motivation kids with ADHD can succeed at math, and may even learn to love the subject along the way!



Mary Rooney, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. Dr Rooney is a researcher and clinician specializing in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD and co-occurring behavioral, anxiety, and mood disorders. A strong advocate for those with attention and behavior problems, Dr. Rooney is committed to developing and providing comprehensive, cutting edge treatments tailored to meet the unique needs of each child and adolescent. Dr. Rooney's clinical interventions and research avenues emphasize working closely with parents and teachers to create supportive, structured home and school environments that enable children and adolescents to reach their full potential. In addition, Dr. Rooney serves as a consultant and ADHD expert to Huntington Learning Centers.


Huntington Learning Center is the tutoring and test prep leader. Its certified tutors provide individualized instruction in reading, phonics, writing, study skills, elementary and middle school math, Algebra through Calculus, Chemistry, and other sciences. It preps for the SAT and ACT, as well as state and standardized exams. Huntington programs develop the skills, confidence, and motivation to help students of all levels succeed and meet the needs of Common Core State Standards. Founded in 1977, Huntington's mission is to give every student the best education possible. Call us today at 1.800.CAN LEARN to discuss how Huntington can help your child. For franchise opportunities please visit

This website does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only.

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