Teaching Math to Children With Language Disabilities

Hands-on, Multisensory, Visual Teaching Strategies

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 can substantially affect their learning and ability to express what they do not understand or show how they solved problems.

These tips can help your child learn to work around their auditory processing difficulties or learning disability (LD) to successfully complete their math work.


Partner With Teachers to Manage Language and Auditory Processing Deficits

Boy learning math
Matthias Tunger / LOOK-foto/Getty

All parents must be actively involved in their children's education. This is especially true with learning disabled children. Ask teachers to:

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

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


Use Hands-on Materials to Improve Your Child's Math Comprehension

Improve your child's understanding of math concepts:

  • Use familiar objects to set up and solve math problems. Items such as money, cereal or candy, or other small objects can be used to demonstrate concepts such as adding, subtracting, greater than, less than, and equal to.
  • Teach using multisensory methods to stimulate your child's thinking skills.
  • Consider using flash cards or 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. It also works as a calculator.

Re-Write Word Problems to Enhance Auditory Comprehension

  • Write the most important sentence first.
  • Reduce the number of words in sentences, leaving only those important to solving the problem.
  • Use simple sentence structure such as: Subject/Verb/Object.
  • Use only words the student already knows and can visualize.
  • Avoid pronouns, Use specific words.
  • Use simple commands where "You" is implied, such as "Add these numbers."
  • Use active sentences such as, "Joe drove the car." Avoid passive sentences such as, "The car was driven by Joe."
  • Avoid double negatives such as, "There are no cars that are not red."

Provide Step-by-Step Models of Problem Solving

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 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.


Have a Parent-Teacher Conference and Request Modifications for Math

Consider asking for a parent-teacher conference. 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.

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  1. Derderian A. Best Practices in Service Provisions in Mathematics for Students with Learning Difficulties/High Incidence Disabilities (RTI, Specific Strategies, Specific Interventions). J Sci Res Rep. 2014;3(20):2665-2684. doi:10.9734/JSRR/2014/11496