Homeschool Math Curriculum for Kids With Special Needs

Parents have many options to choose from

mother and child with abacus

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For parents who are homeschooling a child with learning disabilities, selecting a math curriculum is an important decision. Fortunately, there's no shortage of math programs to choose from, but there's also no easy way to decide which one is best. Perhaps more important is how you use the curriculum you choose.

Before delving into some of the resources available, let's explore which teachers and curriculums make the best fits for children with learning disabilities.

Recognize Your Child's Needs

If your child has language, visual, or auditory deficits, it may hinder their ability to understand abstract concepts and master problem-solving skills. These impairments may also affect their ability to express what they are having trouble understanding.

This is why it's important to take the time to identify your child's intellectual ability in addition to their learning strengths, weaknesses, and needs. Armed with this knowledge, you'll be able to select the best curriculum for your child according to their current strengths.

Remember that no prescribed curriculum is perfect. You'll likely have to make a few adjustments here and there (such as adding demonstrations and materials) for it to best cater to your child's needs. If your chosen approach isn't working, don't be afraid to take a step back and try something else. The more creative and responsive you are to your child's needs, the better your results will be, regardless of the curriculum chosen.

Types of Math Curriculum

Math curriculum programs tend to be either mastery-based or take the spiral approach. Mastery-based programs are chapter books that focus on a few concepts at a time with review practiced separately. The spiral programs introduce concepts and then reinforce them with extensive review problems. 

The Spiral Method

A spiraling curriculum introduces a new concept in each lesson, even if your child hasn't mastered the previous concept. These concepts are repeated and built upon in future lessons, giving your child plenty of opportunities to master the material.

This method also helps students make connections between related concepts, which helps them recall information.

The Mastery Method

In a mastery math program, a student must completely understand one topic before moving to the next. It involves breaking down complex skills into smaller steps. Only after these steps have been mastered are they practiced as a whole.

For example, using this methodology, a student must master addition, subtraction, and multiplication (in that order) before they can tackle long division.

What to do if you're not a "math person"

If math is not your best subject as a homeschool teacher, you can:

  • Choose a good basal curriculum, and learn to teach your child as you go. Naturally, if math is not your strong point, this may seem daunting.
  • Hire a tutor to work with your child specifically in math or any other challenging subjects.
  • Partner with other homeschool parents who are stronger in math skills. They can teach your child math, and you can teach their children in subjects in which you are stronger.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Math Curriculum

When choosing a curriculum, ask yourself the following questions. They will help you narrow down your choices as you explore each program.

  • How does your child learn best? Does your child respond well to computer-based learning? Or do they enjoy drills and worksheets?
  • Will this curriculum fit in my budget? How much is included in the cost of the curriculum? Homeschool math curricula can vary widely in cost. Figuring out what you're comfortable spending will help you weed out some options.
  • How much prep time is required? Do you have time to adequately prepare before presenting each lesson?
  • What type of support materials are available? When choosing a homeschool curriculum, pay attention to whether additional items are needed and how accessible they are. Will you need to purchase any other add-ons or manipulatives? Are there instructional videos to help you implement the curriculum?
  • Do you prefer a scripted or unscripted curriculum? Some math curriculum programs script out everything the parent has to say and do. This takes the guesswork out of instruction and can make math easier to teach if it's not your strongest subject. While some parents like this, others prefer to teach freely using an unscripted curriculum.

What Are Manipulatives?

Manipulatives are concrete objects used to help students understand abstract mathematical concepts. They help bring abstract ideas alive. Just about anything can be used as a manipulative, including pennies, dolls, even pebbles. There are also more math-specific manipulatives, such as tangrams, pattern blocks, algebra tiles, and base ten sets.

While manipulatives are a critical learning tool for all students, they can be especially beneficial to children with special needs. Research suggests that manipulatives make math more accessible for children with special needs.

Popular Homeschool Math Curricula

Now that you know what factors to consider, it's time to pick a couple of programs to look at more closely. Here are short descriptions of some popular homeschool math curricula.

  • Abeka Math: This comprehensive PreK–12 curriculum allows parents to mix-and-match textbooks, lesson plans, kits, and video lessons to create the perfect program for their child. In Abeka, every subject is approached from a Christian perspective.
  • Horizons Math: Designed with fast-paced lessons, Horizons uses a spiral learning method to help students master math through the process of introduction, review, and reinforcement. The publisher, Alpha Omega Publications, also offers Switched-On Schoolhouse, a computer program. Available for Grades K–6.
  • Math-U-See: This skill-based, multi-sensory curriculum for grades K–12 math program uses manipulatives to teach math concepts for children in grades K–12. Each Math-U-See lesson teaches using multi-sensory tools, such as videos and manipulatives, designed to appeal to any type of learner.
  • Saxon Math: This program takes a spiral approach to math. Saxon introduces a new skill or principle each day and continually reviews these concepts day after day for weeks. Available for Grades K–12.
  • Singapore Math: This mastery-based program teaches mathematical concepts using a three-step learning process: concrete, pictorial, and abstract. Hands-on manipulatives, diagrams and models, and abstract symbols help students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Available for Grades PreK–8.

A Word From Verywell

Homeschooling comes with challenges, and math is naturally a challenging subject for some people. If your student has a learning disability that adds to this difficulty, be sure to research your curriculum choices thoroughly. The right program can get almost any child excited about math and ready to learn more.

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2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Lafay A, Osana HP, Valat M. Effects of Interventions with Manipulatives on Immediate Learning, Maintenance, and Transfer in Children with Mathematics Learning Disabilities: A Systematic Review. Educ Res Int. 2019;2019. doi:10.1155/2019/2142948