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