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Case Study: An ADHD student raises her math grade from a D to an A

Monday, January 4th, 2010

Each ADHD student I’ve worked with has been totally unique from any other, so I always adjust my approach accordingly for each individual. But since this is a case study, here are some things that really helped this particular student.

This student first came to me the summer before ninth grade. The previous year she had struggled with focus, especially in math, and at the end of eighth grade, her math teacher had encouraged her to use the summer to review. So we started tutoring over the summer, which was perfect: tons of time, without the pressure of classroom tests or other school-year commitments.

Find the missing gaps and fill them in. Math is so cumulative that missing a single class or even spacing out for a few minutes can make a student feel totally lost! So a big part of our initial work together was retracing my student’s steps and seeing what skills were missing. Once those prerequisite skills were identified, she could master them and move forward.

Focus on conceptual understanding. A lot of students prefer to learn how to do something before learning why it works that way. However, this student craved conceptual understanding. Frequently, once the big picture became clear to her, her face would light up, and she’d exclaim excitedly. Off and running, she’d dive right into the problem, knowing exactly what to do even if I hadn’t told her first. Because this student thrived on big-picture teaching, we focused on that first in each session.

Adjust the curriculum. A easy but helpful psychological “trick”: when we started working together during the summer, we used the textbook for the upcoming year instead of using her old textbook. The material at the end of 8th grade and the beginning of 9th grade is usually the same. But she could start the year confidently, knowing that she’d already mastered the exact material that would be covered in the first few weeks of school. Also, after the school year began, when appropriate, we’d consult an alternative textbook for explanations better suited to her learning style.

In addition to our summer meetings, we continued to meet periodically during the year. After barely four months working together, I was thrilled to learn that my student earned a grade of 108 on her algebra test: 100 plus the 8 point extra credit problem. The highest grade in the class!

Related Posts:
Case Study: Confused by Math Instruction in a Foreign Language
Case Study: Regaining Love of Math
Case Study: Learning Geometry with a Spatial Disability

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