Math Interventions for Special Needs Students: Ideas and Strategies

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Teaching math to special needs children is slightly different from teaching math in a regular classroom. Within special education itself, there is a large range of abilities and a teacher will need to modify their goals and lesson plans depending on the child. Here are a collection of math interventions that you can use for children with special needs.

Learning Number Figures through Touch

Special needs children learn best with multi sensory learning. This is why learning the different number figures through touch can be very effective. Making number figures out of play dough, and playing with foam or plastic number shapes are very effective activities. Puzzles that involve making the number shape will also help develop familiarity with number figures.

Practicing Basic Number Concept

Basic number concept involves the understanding of how many objects are associated with a particular number. Children with special needs often struggle with the concept of numbers and may need a lot of practice in this area before they can be taught higher skills. Use numbers frequently in the classroom, to help the children practice. For example, ask a child if they can give you four crayons, or plan an art activity where the child has to write out and color the number 4 and then glue 4 objects next to it.

Practicing Math through Games and Art

Math should be practiced throughout the day, and games and art activities can be modified to teach various math skills. Let the children be creative as well as learn math, by asking them to draw a picture of their family, and then counting their family members with them. Play games which involve counting. You can also play elimination games and talk about subtraction.

Using Aids for Addition and Subtraction

Children with special needs, especially children with intellectual impairments, will need additional aids to help them with addition and subtraction. Teach the supportive methods early so that they can keep practicing it. One option is making lines or dots on a piece of paper and adding them or removing them for addition and subtraction. Another idea is to use fingers to learn to add and subtract.

Using Calculators

A lot of special needs children will never be able to do all the math calculations in their head. Teach these children how to use a calculator early in life. Understanding how to use a calculator and practicing its use in real-life situations will help independent living.

Focusing on Functional Goals

When we work with children, it is very important to set our teaching goals. Most children with special needs may not be able to cope with the entire range of math curriculum that other children study. A teacher will need to decide on which skills are most important for a child to learn and practice. Functional skills like weighing, measuring, use of money and arranging in numerical order are more important than division or algebra.

Consider what skills a child may need while living independently, and also while working, and make them a part of your teaching goals for the child.

Special Tools for Students with Visual Impairments

For special needs students with visual impairments, using a regular calculator can be difficult. However, there are special tools that can be used. Some examples are the abacus, a talking or large-button calculator or a math window tool. These special devices or tools must be introduced early in instruction, so that the child learns how to use them and is comfortable with them in the future.

Ideas for Fractions

Sometimes students with special needs may not be able to understand fractions, however they will need to understand commonly used terms like “half” and “quarter”. Use practical tasks like dividing cake, water or an apple, to practice fractions.

Using these ideas and thoughts on math interventions for special ed, you will now be able to stock up your classroom with daily use items for math help, to plan functional activities for both young and older students and make math real and practical for all children with special needs.