Differentiating Math Instruction

For Students with Disabilities

Common Skill Deficits

  • Remembering math facts, steps in problem solving, complex rules, and formulas.
  • Understanding the meaning of math facts, operations, and formulas.
  • Understanding why problem solving steps are needed and how rules and formulas affect numbers and the problems solving process.
  • Solving problems quickly and efficiently.
  • Focusing attention on details and accuracy.
  • Becoming lost in the problem solving process.
  • Making errors because of handwriting problems.
  • Mentally computing answers.
  • Applying math skills in new problem-solving situations.
  • Remembering and following multi-step instructions.
  • Making logical leaps in problem solving based on previous learning.
  • Inability to find the important information and/or choose the right problem solving strategy to correctly solve word problems.
  • Inability to find errors in their own work or to identify mistakes they made in solving the problem.
  • Understanding math terms.

Recommended Instructional Methods for K~12 General Education Teachers

  1. Teach students using explicit instruction on a regular basis.
  2. Teach students using multiple instructional examples.

  3. Have students verbalize decisions and solutions to a math problem.

  4. Teach students to visually represent the information in the math problem.

  5. Teach students to solve problems using multiple/heuristic strategies.

  6. Provide ongoing formative assessment data and feedback to teachers.

  7. Provide peer-assisted instruction to students.

Strategies for K~12 General Education Teachers

Beginning Math

  • Teach early number concepts and strategies for counting.
  • Reinforce one-to-one correspondence.
  • Introduce geometry concepts in the early years.

Addition & Subtraction/Multiplication & Division

  • Provide direct teaching for basic number and operation concepts (count-bys).
  • Provide manipulatives (beads, buttons, dried beans, number lines, calculators, base-10 blocks, stencils, copying over dashed-line numbers).
  • Teach vocabulary concepts through direct teaching, verbal elaboration and mnemonic strategies.
  • Promote memory of basic facts through direct teaching, increased learning time, peer tutoring, specialized software (Math Blaster) and independent study strategies (Touch Math, flashcards).

Problem Solving

  • Promote use of word meanings.
  • Sequence instruction that progresses from concrete to semi-concrete to abstract.
  • Provide specific cognitive problem-solving strategies such as seven-step self-monitoring (Read, Paraphrase, Visualize, Hypothesize, Estimate, Compute, Check or Read, Think, Decide, Write, Do, Label, Check) , clue words, highlighting, imagery and pictures.

Money & Time

  • Can be enforced by direct teaching, increased practice of coin recognition, use of manipulatives, use of models and by providing careful sequence of skills.

Fractions & Decimals

  • Initial teaching should involve students' own experiences (cookies, pizzas, pies)
  • Provide appropriate manipulative materials (fraction flip charts, decimal squares) and self-monitoring strategies.

Area & Volume Concepts

  • Provide visual and three-dimensional representations.
  • Teach the "big ideas".


  • Provide early concept development.
  • Teach algebraic representations early.
  • Teach strategies for computation, solving quadratic equations and problem-solving.
  • Provide manipulatives such as algebra tiles.
  • Teach using mnemonics.


  • Provide manipulatives such as clocks.
  • Teach vocabulary through direct teaching.

Functional Math (Daily Living)

  • Use appropriate methods and materials.
  • Reference to "Real Life" skills such as calendar, writing checks, keeping checking and savings account, paying bills, etc.
  • May need to provide small group instruction.
Click here for a List of Accomodations/Modifications

For Students who Receive Special Education Services

Virtual Mathematics

Resource/Reference List

Kristyn Hall

SPED 6002~Summer 2015

East Carolina University