How to teach math facts to an autistic child

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

Children with autism and average IQs consistently demonstrated superior math skills compared with nonautistic children in the same IQ range, according to a study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.

“There appears to be a unique pattern of brain organization that underlies superior problem-solving abilities in children with autism,” said Vinod Menon, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and a member of the Child Health Research Institute at Packard Children’s.

The autistic children’s enhanced math abilities were tied to patterns of activation in a particular area of their brains — an area normally associated with recognizing faces and visual objects.

Menon is senior author of the study, published online Aug. 17 in Biological Psychiatry. Postdoctoral scholar Teresa luculano, PhD, is the lead author.

Children with autism have difficulty with social interactions, especially interpreting nonverbal cues in face-to-face conversations. They often engage in repetitive behaviors and have a restricted range of interests.

But in addition to such deficits, children with autism sometimes exhibit exceptional skills or talents, known as savant abilities. For example, some can instantly recall the day of the week of any calendar date within a particular range of years — for example, that May 21, 1982, was a Friday. And some display superior mathematical skills.

“Remembering calendar dates is probably not going to help you with academic and professional success,” Menon said. “But being able to solve numerical problems and developing good mathematical skills could make a big difference in the life of a child with autism.”

The idea that people with autism could employ such skills in jobs, and get satisfaction from doing so, has been gaining ground in recent years.

The participants in the study were 36 children, ages 7 to 12. Half had been diagnosed with autism. The other half was the control group. Each group had 14 boys and four girls. (Autism disproportionately affects boys.) All participants had IQs in the normal range and showed normal verbal and reading skills on standardized tests administered as part of the recruitment process for the study. But on the standardized math tests that were administered, the children with autism outperformed children in the control group.

After the math test, researchers interviewed the children to assess which type of problem-solving strategies each had used: Simply remembering an answer they already knew; counting on their fingers or in their heads; or breaking the problem down into components — a comparatively sophisticated method called decomposition. The children with autism displayed greater use of decomposition strategies, suggesting that more analytic strategies, rather than rote memory, were the source of their enhanced abilities.

Then, the children worked on solving math problems while their brain activity was measured in an MRI scanner, in which they had to lie down and remain still. The brain scans of the autistic children revealed an unusual pattern of activity in the ventral temporal occipital cortex, an area specialized for processing visual objects, including faces.

“Our findings suggest that altered patterns of brain organization in areas typically devoted to face processing may underlie the ability of children with autism to develop specialized skills in numerical problem solving,” Iuculano said.

“These findings not only empirically confirm that high-functioning children with autism have especially strong number-problem-solving abilities, but show that this cognitive strength in math is based on different patterns of functional brain organization,” said Carl Feinstein, MD, director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at Packard Children’s and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the School of Medicine. He was not involved in the study.

Menon added that previous research “has focused almost exclusively on weaknesses in children with autism. Our study supports the idea that the atypical brain development in autism can lead not just to deficits, but also to some remarkable cognitive strengths. We think this can be reassuring to parents.”

The research team is now gathering data from a larger group of children with autism to learn more about individual differences in their mathematical abilities. Menon emphasized that not all children with autism have superior math abilities, and that understanding the neural basis of variations in problem-solving abilities is an important topic for future research.

Other Stanford co-authors are postdoctoral scholars Miriam Rosenberg-Lee, PhD, and Kaustubh Supekar, PhD; social science research assistants Charles Lynch and Amirah Khouzam; Jennifer Phillips, PhD, clinical associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and a clinical psychologist at Packard Children’s; and Lucina Uddin, PhD, instructor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

Do you need help learning how to teach your child with autism math facts? In this article, I’ll share with you how I taught my son the addition facts. The same method could be applied to subtraction, multiplication, and division facts. 

As you know, most children with autism probably won’t be able to sit down with a list of addition or multiplication facts and memorize them on their own.

Our kids need a good bit of extra help, and I’ll show you what worked for us.

First of all, I must point out that I used a variety of techniques to help my son remember these concepts. We began with concrete examples as I explain below.

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

Start With Concrete Examples

Before attempting to teach your child with autism math facts, it’s important to begin by showing him what these equations mean.

If you chose to, you could start by simply having him memorize addition facts. But the problem is that many children with autism will see the symbols and not know what the equations mean.

One study among others shows that concrete examples help children with autism understand abstract concepts.

Concrete examples can take many forms, such as blocks, beads, tokens, pieces of food, or even small toys. You can use these materials to count out equations so he can see that two blocks plus three blocks equals five blocks.

We also used an  abacus  for this purpose. I highly recommend an abacus since it is a tool designed for giving your child a visual example of a math problem. 

This article gives you a step by step procedure for modeling an equation using an abacus or other concrete example such as blocks or beads. If you haven’t seen it or if you need a refresher, you can find it here.

Once I was confident that he understood what the written equations stood for, it was time to help him memorize them.

How I Taught My Son With Autism Math Facts

I followed this simple procedure successfully to teach my son with autism math facts (addition), and I must say, it worked quite well for him.  So well, in fact, that I plan to do this for subtraction, multiplication and division facts as well.

  1. Call out in consecutive order each equation in the zero series.  That is, 0+0=0, 0+1=1, all the way to 0+10=10.  As you call out each equation, have her write each one down (or have her type them on the computer).
  2. Repeat step 1 every day.  Eventually start leaving out the answers to see if she knows them.
  3. Now mix up the order and call them out that way.  0+5= , 0+2= , etc.  Give help as needed.
  4. Also supplement with other activities for review such as flash cards.
  5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 for the one series:  1+0=1, 1+1=2, all the way to 1+10=11.
  6. Repeat steps 1 through 4 for the two’s, three’s, etc. until she has learned the ten’s.
  7. (Optional) If you want to, you can also teach her the eleven’s and twelve’s.  It certainly can’t hurt, and it may be very helpful for her.

Teach Them in Order First

I found that first teaching the equations in consecutive order was helpful for my son. It presented the task in an organized fashion for him.

But soon he became too dependent on that ordering of the equations.  Take a look at the sequence below:

Predictably, he soon figured out that the answers were in consecutive order.  All he had to do was know how to count, and he would have all the right answers.

Of course, that’s not what we wanted.  He needed to know these equations regardless of the order in which they were presented.  So we had to mix up the order.

Mixing up the equations did throw him off at first.  But with a lot of patience and review, he learned them quite well.

Although your child may have different needs, I tend to think that most children with autism need that orderly presentation at first.  I believe it gives them an organized, better understanding of the math facts.

But once he learns them in that order, I would suggest mixing them up to be sure he knows them regardless of the order in which you present them.

Use Music to Review Equations

The video above is part 1 of an addition facts series. The Jack Hartmann Kids Music Channel on YouTube also features parts 2 and 3, which cover addition facts all the way through the tens.

Using music for memorization is a proven, effective method for learning many things. Music makes learning just about anything easier. For example, the tune from the alphabet song is commonly used to help kids learn their letters.

So here we have yet another way to review the math facts.  As I’ve stated earlier, it’s helpful to find different ways to reinforce these concepts.

Flash cards  are also very helpful, and I highly recommend using them as well. Here I explain how I used flash cards to teach my son with autism math facts and other basic concepts.

What’s Next?

Once my son learned his basic addition facts, I started teaching him double-digit addition, which involved some unique challenges for a person with autism.

Once I move on to subtraction, I plan to go back to showing him the equations on the abacus . I want to be sure he understands what these equations mean.  I also plan to do the same when we start learning multiplication and later on, division.

Teaching children with autism math facts can take a lot of time, patience and effort.  But if we keep working at it, even for a few minutes every day, I think they will surprise us with what they can do.

Within the next few months, I plan to publish a book explaining how to teach your child with autism basic math skills. If you would like to be informed of when the book is available for purchase and about tips and updates to this site, scroll to the top of this page and sign up for our newsletter.

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

When it comes to homeschooling, there are certain subjects that parents just don’t feel comfortable teaching. At the top of the list, you’ll usually find math.

When it comes to autism and math skills, some students are highly gifted. There are others who can memorize certain facts but are unable to apply the information when solving problems and equations. Since there are various autism spectrum disorders, it’s important to consider the child’s current academic abilities as well as their communication, social and behavioral skills when selecting the ideal math curriculum for autistic students.

Below are a few math strategies for autistic students that can help parents successfully teach the subject and keep their children engaged in the process.

Visual Aids

Math is one of those topics in which doing is the best way to learn. If your child is young and just learning the numbers or simple addition and subtraction, you may want to use small toys or their favorite snacks to add and subtract. Math counters are a great tool to teach students to add, subtract, and count. An abacus is also a useful item that helps them perform calculations and overcome their math difficulties. These manipulatives are also great for students who are prone to fidget.

One Step at a Time

When teaching math to students with autism, it’s important to make sure they have basic speech skills first so they can understand commands and directions. Don’t overwhelm your child with everything they need to do at once. For students with autism who struggle with communication skills, it is best to provide step by step, simple-to-follow verbal directions. In addition, make sure to give your child ample time to complete one step before moving on to the next. For students who may not be able to communicate verbally, you can also show them what to do first so they can then mirror what you did.

Write it Out

If your child is still working on their fine motor skills, holding a pencil might be a challenge. Having your child trace numbers into the air is a good start. You can also have your child work on a computer or tablet since it may be easier for them to use a keyboard and/or touch screen. For students who have developed their fine motor skills, a small whiteboard and dry erase marker are perfect for learning to count and writing equations.

Printable Math Worksheets

Looking for more ways to introduce math into your homeschool? Download this printable math packet for K-12 students and start practicing or advancing your math skills today.

Make a Plan

For many students with autism, following a routine helps them feel at ease since they know what to expect. Whether it’s doing math after breakfast or before recess, doing so at the same time each day allows them to mentally prepare. It can also help to start math the same way each time. This can be by singing a particular song or starting each lesson by sitting on a special rug.

Let’s Play

Math games for autistic students can be very effective, especially when the subject isn’t exactly their favorite. Whether in person, or online, playing games can help your child associate math with fun, thereby increasing their interest. You can try apps, an online curriculum, or even card games/flash cards. You can also try incorporating something your child likes or brings them comfort, perhaps a particular toy or a special blanket.

You Did It

Be sure to give your child praise when they learn a new skill or get a correct answer. This helps motivate students and will help them associate math with good, positive feelings. Remember that for some children with autism, facial expressions and other non-verbal cues are difficult to understand, so be sure you use straightforward, direct language when expressing what a great job they did.

If your child tends to become overstimulated, be sure to choose a teaching environment that is quiet, free of distractions and clutter. Keep in mind that lighting can also play a role in a student’s comfort level, so whether you have to open windows or dim the lights, do what works best for your child. If you find that your child is not interested despite your best efforts, it may be possible that what you are teaching them may not be challenging enough.

Lastly, don’t forget to take breaks when you notice that your child is losing interest or becoming frustrated. Setting up a sensory station can be the perfect way for your child to relax. Remember, these are special memories you are making with your child as you both learn new things together.

This essential subject is one of the three R’s:  reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic.  It’s basic knowledge that all our kids need to know to function as normally and as independently as possible.

You want your child to be able to count, to recognize numbers, and to at least do some basic addition and subtraction.  If you can possibly move your child on to multiplication and division, that would be wonderful, too.

If your child is an arithmetic genius, then great!  That’s his strength, and you can encourage him in that. 

But if he doesn’t ever master calculus or differential equations, or even algebra, not to worry. Math wasn’t my subject either. 

Let your child’s abilities and strengths be your guide, and bring her as far as she can go.  But don’t sweat it if she has a lot of trouble along the way.

All your child really needs to function independently in this world are the basics.  So if this isn’t her subject, it’s okay if all she learns is addition and subtraction.

Just approach teaching your child with autism math skills as you should approach anything else you do with her:  with lots of love and patience.

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

How and What to Teach

Below I’m listing various basic math skills and methods you can use to teach your child.  I’ll explain each subject further on separate pages, so just follow those links to learn more.

But I highly recommend that you start with the first link listed below to learn an important principle for teaching children with autism math.

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

Not to worry. Unless your child loves higher math, basic lessons such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are probably all she will need.

What You Need to Know When Teaching Your Child With Autism Math

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

Teaching children with autism math is simple and do-able if you follow some key principles. Following these guidelines will make this subject easier to understand and will help to ensure your child’s success in learning the basics and more.

Math Flash Cards

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

We used flash cards extensively when my son was young.  They were great tools for learning and giving him lots of review.  You can use them for learning anything from number recognition and counting to calculus, if your child goes that far. 


How to teach math facts to an autistic child

I used an abacus a lot to help my son understand what the numbers and equations meant, and to learn counting.  Check out this article for tips on how to use an abacus effectively.

Learning Single-Digit Addition Equations

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

Once your child has a better understanding of basic arithmetic concepts, you can start working on helping him memorize addition math facts. Check out  this article  for ideas on how to help him at this stage.

Adding Two Digits to One Digit

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

After she has memorized the addition facts, the next step is to teach her to add two digits to one digit.  Learning this skill brought us to a pitfall that I want to warn you about.  It’s a problem that I think is unique to autism.

Adding Two Digits to Two Digits

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

The pitfall you might encounter when your child is learning to add two digits to one digit can continue on as she learns to add two digits to two digits.  But patience, persistence, and lots of practice are key here. Check out  this article  to learn more.

Teaching Your Child Subtraction: A Step-By-Step Procedure

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

If you need to know a procedure for teaching subtraction facts that is well-suited for children with autism, then  this is the article for you.

Here I will walk you through a step-by-step procedure that will help your child not only learn subtraction facts, but also understand exactly what each equation means.

Tips and Principles to Help Your Child Better Understand Subtraction

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

Put the step-by-step procedure you learn in the above article with the  ideas and principles  you can learn  here  and you will be well-set to teach your child in a way that he or she can truly understand.


How to teach math facts to an autistic child

Do you ever have trouble getting or keeping your child’s interest in mathematics? I think a lot of kids find it hard to stay on task when it comes to this subject. Games can be very useful for keeping your child’s attention on what you’re teaching her.  Click here  to find out how to use games to keep your child focused on her lessons.

Free Math Worksheets

Many parents want to provide a quality education for their children, but this can be a challenge when money is tight. That’s why finding as many free and inexpensive resources as possible can be so helpful. 

Mary Fifer, an experienced teacher and homeschooler, has lots of free math worksheets you can download at her site here . Also available at her website are free spelling, phonics, grammar and writing worksheets.

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

If you’re getting ready to teach math to a student with autism, you’ll soon discover that there will be a lot of exciting, a-ha moments, as well as a few challenges along the way. However, employing specific strategies and getting to know your child on an academic level can help make the experience enjoyable for both of you and help you overcome any obstacles like a pro.

This page provides useful information that can benefit anyone who is teaching math to a child with autism. You’ll discover why some students with autism excel in math, what to look for in a math curriculum, and how Time4Learning can help your student with autism succeed.

Autism and Math

Evidence in the last few years has suggested that children with autism may have certain cognitive strengths in mathematics. A study published in Biological Psychiatry in 2013 seems to coincide with that theory.

Researchers found that certain parts of the brain in children with autism are activated when solving math problems, and that they tend to use different approaches when solving these problems when compared to students without autism. In the study, the children with autism used decomposition when solving addition problems twice as much as the typically developing students in the study. This strategy involves breaking down each problem into smaller problems to find the answer.

How to Teach Math to a Child With Autism

Since Autism Spectrum Disorder is so wide ranging, there really isn’t one particular method to teach math to students with autism. As with students in general, each child has his or her own preferred way of learning, with their own individual strengths and weaknesses. Getting to know your child on various levels will give you better insight as to what teaching method will work best.

Time4Learning’s online curriculum does, however, provide visual representation and grouping, which is similar to the use of physical manipulatives in the classroom which are often beneficially used by children on the spectrum. As many students on the spectrum see and understand things physically and literally, it helps to display an actual representation of the number of items you are adding, subtracting or multiplying. As students transition into the older grade levels which introduce word problems, Time4Learning also provides families with additional free tools.

Teaching math to students with autism can be aided by following these strategies:

  • Identify your child’s interest and use it to teach math concepts.
  • Capitalize on their visual-spatial learning style by using multimedia teaching tools.
  • List out math facts so your child can easily refer to it whenever they need.
  • Teach math concepts through visual examples and pair them with verbal instructions for those that are partially verbal or non-verbal.
  • Make teaching math fun by playing games with flash cards, apps, or an online curriculum.
  • Use technology to help those students whose fine motor skills aren’t as developed.
  • Provide praise as often as possible to keep students motivated.
  • Use multiple-choice format rather than yes or no questions.

Math Curriculum for Students With Autism

When teaching math to students with autism, math curriculum choice is critical. Finding a math curriculum for students on the spectrum doesn’t need to be a taxing chore. Employing proven and research-backed strategies can help make the teaching and learning process for both parties less stressful and a lot more enjoyable.

When trying to find the ideal math curriculum for students on the spectrum ask yourself:

  • What are my child’s math learning strengths?
  • Can I modify the math curriculum to focus on those strengths?
  • How does the math curriculum address my child’s areas of weakness?

Answering these questions will give you a huge advantage when looking through math programs for students with autism.

How Time4Learning Curriculum Helps Students with Autism

Time4Learning is an award-winning, online curriculum that has received the distinction of being a Certified Autism Resource by IBCCES. Our interactive curriculum teaches students through engaging lessons using a student-paced approach, which includes access to multiple grade levels at a time. This ensures a strong foundation and closes gaps that may have been missed in previous grade levels.

The fun, interactive nature of Time4Learning appeals to students with autism since it offers a visually appealing presentation that captures their attention and motivates them to learn. Lessons and activities are brief, usually no longer than several minutes, and parents have the option to have their children redo activities, skip specific lessons, and more. Just as well, parents having access to the answer keys for tests and quizzes in Time4Learning assists them in aiding their intuitive math students, without having to review the lessons themselves.

Time4Learning’s math curriculum offers activities that benefit students on the spectrum with these key features:

  • Student-paced, online learning program delivers customized instruction.
  • Focuses on fundamental math concepts to help develop strong math skills.
  • Brief lessons, activities and practice opportunities focus on core content to ensure mastery and retention.
  • Designed to allow students to progress at their own pace with the option to redo activities and retake tests.
  • Automated record keeping allows parents to track student progress and quickly identify problem areas.

Take a closer look at how our curriculum can help your child excel by trying our lesson demos.

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

Which school subject has led to more parental gray hairs than all other subjects combined?

It’s not too hard to guess that the answer is math.

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

meltdowns to a minimum when math class is back in session.

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

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I created Thinkster Math to help every child succeed in math, and we do often work with children with autism. I asked two of our online tutors, Yvonne and Sabrina, to share some insights into what has worked for them in their sessions with these students. These are tips that parents can apply over the summer as well. Here is some of what they said:

1. Make real-world connections

For children on the spectrum, some of the more abstract concepts in math can present a problem. As concrete, black-and-white thinkers, it can be hard for them to understand a nebulous idea that doesn’t have an obvious practical application.

Sabrina told me the story of one student with ASD who would routinely let her know, in no uncertain terms, when he felt a lesson was “pointless.” Each time, she would help him see the real-world importance of that particular concept, and that would aid in his understanding and motivation.

Throughout the summer, try to make those connections for your child whenever you can. Let him/her pay for items at the store, and practice adding and subtracting, multiplying and dividing in the process. Or take your child to a local museum of science to let them experience the way math affects technology and science in a hands-on way.

2. Provide extra positive reinforcement

All kids benefit from positive reinforcement in math, but the additional challenge of decoding social cues makes clear positive feedback even more vital for students on the spectrum.

Yvonne shared a story about a student she works with who thrives on praise given animatedly and excitedly. Every single time Yvonne praised her multiple times each session, she got a “Thank you very much, Miss Yvonne!” This kiddo was motivated to keep working.

Don’t be sparing in your praise of your ASD child’s math progress. Provide your child with some math work to practice over the summer, and then make a huge deal out of every success – it’ll inspire him/her to keep up the good work.

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

3. Introduce changes slowly

Change is inevitable, but it’s also hard for children on the spectrum to deal with sometimes. Unfortunately, math class is full of changes—new concepts, new approaches to solving problems, new methods of teaching—and that can make learning even more difficult.

Yvonne recommended introducing changes slowly and gradually. If your child’s previous teacher used a lot of videos to teach math concepts, and you know next year’s teacher will use a lot more student work on a smartboard, start discussing the change with your child over the summer. Get him/her a whiteboard or tablet to start getting familiar with writing on a board or with the apps that might be used. That way, when it’s introduced in school, your child will already be comfortable with it.

4. Provide individualized attention

Ultimately, every student has different math needs. Some children are visual learners, while some are more hands-on. Some have trouble with geometry but fly through algebra or vice versa. And within those categories, each student has concepts that seem harder or easier to them, just depending on how they’re wired.

The very best way to help your child with autism succeed in math is to get them one-on-one attention, to ensure that their unique, specific math needs are being met. Whether that means working with them yourself, getting a private tutor, or finding an online program that customizes its tutorials around assessments of their unique strengths and weaknesses, it’s the most important piece of the puzzle. And getting your child that individual math help over the summer will help them maintain the math skills they’ve already worked so hard to develop and be ready to jump into the next school year with a minimum of upset.

So take your kids to the museum this summer. Tell them how incredibly awesome they are, and help them prepare for any changes that next year will bring. And most importantly, figure out what their unique math needs are, and provide that one-on-one attention that’ll help them thrive now, next year, and for the rest of their life.

Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder affecting neurological and social abilities. Teaching children with autism requires patience. Many autistic children do not attend public schools as established teaching practices do not satisfy the needs of the students. Children affected by autism require repetition and structure. Traditional education of autistic children centers around basic language and social skills. While not traditional, teaching math skills to autistic kids may prove beneficial to growth, confidence and independence.

Develop an individual education plan (IEP). Each child presents different strengths and difficulties. A plan outlines the goals, strategies and services children will receive based on their own needs. Change the IEP frequently to ensure constant progress.

Involve parents and teachers in lessons. Autistic children require structure. Parents and teachers must communicate and work together to present a united front. Extending lessons to the home helps aid classroom learning. Parents should attend regular meetings with teachers to discuss lessons and progress.

Incorporate sports and games into math lessons. Keeping the child’s attention may prove difficult. Introducing mathematical concepts in association with the child’s favorite activities proves helpful. Try teaching counting using a scoreboard in a sports game or sing and dance to homemade tunes of multiplication timetables.

Place equations on uncluttered sheets of paper. Do not overwhelm the student with a sheet full of equations. Print each equation in a large font and provide plenty of space for writing and configuring the answer. Use only a minimum amount of equations per page.

Accommodate lesson plans to the child. Do not try to change or rush the child. Follow the child’s lead to ensure the comprehension of concepts. Each student progresses at his own pace and you must respect this pace.

Use concrete objects to animate lessons. Autistic children require concrete lessons. Include tangible objects to support the material you teach. Items such as marbles, coins and even an abacus may help.

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

Math facts are basic calculations that children can learn in order to help them do arithmetic more quickly. By committing math facts to memory, they can be recalled fluently so attention is freed for working on higher order math functions.

Drills are often the first thing that comes to mind, but the goal for parents and teachers is to help children automatize these facts in as painless of a way as possible – even better if it can be fun!

Teaching math facts

What to teach first

Addition and subtraction math facts are typically learned first, followed by multiplication and division. As in most areas of mathematics, learning is cumulative, and one thing builds on another.

Teaching math facts to students

Math facts can be thought of as the basic building blocks of math.

The more fluent and accurate a child’s knowledge of them, the more confidently and quickly they can work through problems.

So, what’s the best way to teach them?

There is no one right way and the approach you take may be different depending on your learner.

First, information must pass from short to long-term memory. To automatize a fact, it then needs to be encountered and recalled frequently enough so production happens quickly and effortlessly.

One of the best ways for a teacher to ensure learning has taken place is to see if learners have productive knowledge of a math fact. Can they recite it aloud or write it out?

How to teach math facts to an autistic child

traditional drill like this feel more fun.

Make use of magnetic numbers. Another tactile way of practicing math facts is with magnetic numbers. You can also use foam numbers on a wet surface or have them arrange wooden numbers on a table.

The best part of learning and rehearsing facts this way is students’ errors are easily corrected through re-arranging the numbers, avoiding the stigma of erasers and red pens.

Just make sure to purchase two or more sets of magnetic numbers so you can create equations in which a digit appears more than once, for example 1 + 1 = 2.

Say them aloud. Reciting math facts aloud is a great way to commit them to memory, especially for students who are auditory learners or those who struggle with processing visual information.

Prompt the child to recite the entire fact then provide the correct answer orally if needed. Often students who are struggling to remember a fact can hear your voice or their own rehearsing it.

Math education doesn’t have to take place at a desk. Rehearsing facts while on the go, in the shower or even at the supermarket can make for an engaging approach.

In the classroom, a teacher may have learners chant the math facts as a group. You can even create a game in which two teams compete and must say the fact in a particular way, whisper it, sing it, shout it etc. This is a fun way to practice.

Type them out. For kids who struggle with handwriting, and/or speech production, touch-typing is often an effective approach for practicing newly learned information.

In the Touch-type Read and Spell program, the math fact appears on the screen. It is then read aloud, and the student must type it out at the same time, using the correct finger positions.

This type of multi-sensory drill has proven effective for committing information to memory. This is because it brings together visual, auditory and tactile stimuli to help math facts ‘stick.’

It’s also a great way to work on number spelling!

Show them on a calculator. You can play a calculator game where a learner is given a sheet of facts to enter and must guess before confirming their answer on the calculator.

This gives students a measure of control in checking their own work and makes it easier for the teacher to see where more practice is needed.

In the classroom, a teacher can divide learners into two groups where each group is responsible for setting up a math fact equation for the other group to solve using the calculator.

Arrange objects on a flat surface. From food to buttons, recreating math facts this way can help visual and tactile learners commit them to memory.

Also note this can work well for students who struggle with hyperactivity as it gives them a chance to move during a lesson.

Another kinetic learning activity is to give students flashcards and get them to arrange the cards (or themselves holding the card) in groups based on shared factors.

Mixing up the order in which students learn and practice facts is important. It’s also good to allow learners a measure of creativity in an otherwise rote-learning task. For example, you could have learners illustrate math facts through drawing or painting.

You might get them to create their own rhyme or song, such as three little birds sat on a wall, two flew away and then there was one. Many nursery rhymes use this tactic to teach math but it’s always fun to give kids a chance to write their own.

How to teach math facts to an autistic childdyscalculia be given a calculator as a classroom accommodation to help them access high order math lessons.


Individuals who have dyslexia may struggle with math facts. They can be prone to reversing digits and/or changing the order of numbers when working on an equation.

Word problems are often particularly difficult for students with dyslexia.

Visual processing difficulties

Visual processing difficulties affect an individual’s ability to makes sense of visual information.

This means learners have a harder time interpreting math symbols, including numbers and letters on the page.

Slow processing

Children with slow processing speed can have trouble performing math operations as they struggle to hold multiple pieces of information in memory at the same time.

Learning math facts is especially important, but this too can take longer and require more drills and repetitions to automatize learning.

Math anxiety

Math anxiety can cause a learner to experience a mental block which may cut off access to learned information, like math facts. Anxiety typically affects learners during timed assessment situations.

Keep in mind, just because production is interrupted, it does not mean the individual has not learned the math facts.


Dyspraxia is a fine-motor skills difficulty that can make writing by hand, painful. Individuals with dyspraxia may additionally have problems with sequencing, which can cause them to struggle in multi-step math problems.