Teachers Using Videos to Teach Math to ADHD Kids: A Case Study


For students with ADHD, learning in a traditional classroom can be a struggle. They often have no control over the pace of instruction, or other aspects of the learning environment that may interfere with instruction. Using videos to teach math can be a way to differentiate math instruction for ADHD students.

Math Videos for ADHD Kids

For students with ADHD, math can easily become one of their more terrifying subjects. For these kids, it's like your brain doesn't have an off switch. Your brain just jumps from idea to idea to idea, and not necessarily in a linear fashion. Additionally, sometimes your brain just goes blank, and you lose track of what's going on around you. Now imagine, this is what your mind is doing during math class. The teacher starts an example, and you write it down, but miss certain steps. Unfortunately, your teacher does not have a rewind option. However, using videos to teach math to students with ADHD may be an option.

More Flexible Direct Instruction

For a child with ADHD, using videos to teach math - especially for direct instruction - can help assure students are exposed to all of the material. Unlike a teacher, students can control the video as they work through the material. For the ADHD student, that allows them to control some key issues they struggle with in classrooms. Students gain control of the pace of the instruction using videos. Additionally, the short length of videos addresses the issue of attention span that students with ADHD also struggle with. Let's look at this in a bit more detail.

Give Students Control of the Instructional Pace

Using videos, students can control the pace of instruction - even if it is only a three- to five-minute video. For example, if they notice their mind has drifted off, they can pause and rewind to assure they didn't miss a key step in the process. Additionally, it allows the student to review their work so they can check themselves to be sure that their examples and notes are complete. It is important, because the ADHD student may drift off in the middle of a problem and not realize it. If there is a mistake in their examples they are using as models; then they will essentially learn the material incorrectly. It is difficult for any child, but especially a child with ADHD, to go back and relearn the material they internalized incorrectly.

Students in classroom

Additionally, videos used to teach math can be adjusted in length. For example, a teacher may provide a short 3-4 minute video to introduce the mathematical concept to students. This short length will appeal to an ADHD child, who will have a shorter attention span than the typical child or even adult.

Controlling the Learning Input

It can be true for every student, but especially for students with ADHD, the visual input is important. These types of learners may often struggle with processing -auditory input. So, imagine a traditional classroom where the teacher is writing on the board, and verbally explaining steps at the same time. The ADHD student may need to focus on just the visual at first, and then come back to the auditory components.

Fortunately, videos, unlike humans, have rewind and repeat options. Students can rewind if they miss something in an example, or they can fast forward if they don't need as many examples. If they need to work through more practice problems, videos offer that option. Or, if they easily grasp a concept, they can move ahead as needed to meet their learning needs. This control aspect will help an ADHD child engage in the math since they can control the pace, rather than the pace of class trying to control them.

student at computer

Engage the ADHD Mind in Real-World Problem Solving

Videos offer teachers a chance to engage an easily distractible mind in real-world examples straight from credible, and perhaps more interesting than the average math teacher, sources. For example, the TED organization, standing for technology, entertainment, and design, publishes a YouTube Channel where they publish short videos that walk students through a variety of math concepts in a real-world frame. These videos cover the content, but they are short, which works well for the ADHD mind's attention span. Additionally, they incorporate visuals and music, which can be engaging to the ADHD child who needs more rapid changes in terms of visuals to keep their mind on track.

Numberpile is another YouTube Channel that offers math videos with an out of the box approach. For example, there is a video that explores the number Pi (3.14….). However, it is not just an 'Oh here is Pi video.' Rather, it explores the different nuances of the number Pi but in a slightly ridiculous way.

The instructor discusses the number Pi while rolling out a roll of paper that is over a mile long with the first million digits of Pi, on a tarmac, and yes, there are trucks involved to travel from point to point. The ridiculousness of the paper and trucks, combined with the music, creates a humorous explanation but gives students real-world visuals of what the instructor is talking about. The entire video is only seven minutes long, but it uses the real-world scenario and brevity in a way that would engage the way an ADHD mind works.

By Rachel Tustin
January 2020
k-12 learning with adhd

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