Math for Students with Mild, Moderate, and Severe Disabilities

Math can be hard for regular students who have no special needs.  Math can be difficult to teach with students who have a variety of mild, moderate, or severe disabilities.  I have been in many different classes where students with mild disabilities are included and not included in the classroom, most of the time it is self-directed or independent learning with computer programs such as an excellent resource at

What makes math difficult for some students?

  • Communication challenge: math requires reading, writing, and discussing.
  • Strategy deficiencies: not being able to perform basic operations
  • Lack of past instruction: focus only on functional math like money.
  • Memory challenges: math facts and math concepts.
When teaching students with disabilities focus on the big ideas of math.  When communicating with students, teach students math symbols, use visuals in the classroom to have students relate to definitions and concepts.  
  • Use nonverbal prompts: pointing, head nods, and hand motions.
  • Use prerecorded auditory prompts.
  • Picture schedule events for the day, picture and word instructions for a task.
  • Error correction should always be clear and immediate.
  • Give a brief amount of time for self-correction.
  • Give a mild reprimand, ask students to try again, avoid using no or wrong.
  • Try to block, redirect to the correct response.
  • Model the correct response.
In mathematics for students who have moderate to severe disabilities we are trying to have the students learn problem solving, apply solutions to real life, solve the problem using mathematics, present the problem as a story. 

Making it relevant to the students:
  1. Use Graphic Organizers
  2. Make it Personal to the Learner
  3. State the Objective
  4. Present a Math Story
  5. Have students Predict
  6. Read the Story
For more information check out the link: Students with Disabilities

Apps in Special Education
While the iPad is a stunning piece of technology, many special education teachers are scrambling to put it to good use and maximize its potential as a support to students, curriculum, and learning. Like all computer technology and curricular hardware, such as a calculator, ruler or scale, the iPad is a tool. It is only as good as the problems it solves and the differentiation it provides.

Sounding Board is a good place to start. Developed as a communication board app for the iPad, iPod, and iPhone, Sounding Board has many other uses, particularly when it comes to supporting Equals Mathematics. Sounding Board is set up as a 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-, 6-, or 9-message board, but you can program it to connect automatically to other boards, thereby extending the number of choices. Sounding Board comes with the AbleNet pic-symbol library and access to a photo library as well as your own photos. Users can select a message by touch, automatic scan, or step scan, and it has the capability of auditory scanning.

Another iPad app worth mentioning is Notability. Notability allows the user to write with a finger on any pdf file. Since Equals Math worksheets, workmats, student tools, and Chapter Tests are all pdf files, students can work with them on the iPad.

One teacher in Los Angeles had a great idea for adapting this app for students with disabilities. Some of her students were unable to point without resting the rest of their hands on the iPad and it made a mark on the page making it difficult to see. She cut a hole in the finger tip of a gardening glove so students wearing the glove could rest the hand on the iPad while writing with the exposed fingertip.  Download both the apps below.

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