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Math Disorders


A child might be diagnosed with a math disorder they experience substantial difficulties with the acquisition of math skills in a wide variety of areas, such as calculation or problem solving.

Why it Matters

Throughout a child's formal school years, there is a heavy emphasis on mathematics. When a child has an undiagnosed math disorder and does not fully understand early math concepts or math facts, it makes it much harder for them to later learn more complicated concepts such as algebra or geometry, which build on basic skills. Difficulties in math can also significantly impact a child in other academic subjects, such as science, because math concepts are necessary to understand science lessons. Math has implications in social skills, as well, since sports and board games require score keeping and strategizing. Math also is necessary for many activities of daily living, such as figuring out how much time is necessary to complete a task, traveling from one location to another, purchasing items from a store, and cooking.

How It is Diagnosed

Learning disabilities are identified using either the severe discrepancy model or the response to intervention (RTI) model. Please see the related article entitled "How are learning disabilities diagnosed?" for more information.

Treatment and Accommodations

There are no universal treatments for math disorders, but there are different ways to teach math and there are accommodations that can be made to make it easier to learn math. The specific type of intervention and accommodation depends on the individual child's strengths and weaknesses. Often, the use of manipulative materials is suggested to make math concepts concrete, easier to visualize, and easier to learn. Similarly, you can draw pictures of word problems, model and review sample problems, create flash cards to help memorize math facts, make a list of the steps to complete a problem, and encourage your child to talk through the steps aloud as they work. You can also use a child's interests to teach math. For example, if a child's special interest is sports, focusing on that sport can motivate the child to learn the math concepts (such as using baseball to learn concepts of addition or percentages).

The Center for Autism Research and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia do not endorse or recommend any specific person or organization or form of treatment. The information included within the CAR Autism Roadmap™ and CAR Resource Directory™ should not be considered medical advice and should serve only as a guide to resources publicly and privately available. Choosing a treatment, course of action, and/or a resource is a personal decision, which should take into account each individual's and family's particular circumstances.