Math Adaptations for Children with Visual-Spatial Processing Issues

This is part 6 of a series of 6 posts about Visual-Spatial Processing Issues (and other related learning differences). Links to the other posts in this series are found at the bottom of this post.

math calculations with graph paper

(Remember that if your child has other “special needs,” the adaptations suggested in these posts may also be helpful for your child’s particular issues.)

What kind of math problems are caused by visual-spatial processing issues?

  • Difficulty in math due to weak spatial abilities can result in below average computational arithmetic skills as the child is “left behind” the rest of the class and develops gaps in basic skills.
  • The child may have difficulty with simple patterns, money comparisons, and graphs.

What are some useful adaptations?

  • Help the child identify and mark (with coloured pencils or highlighters) key details including patterns, symbols, and words that mean particular math operations. Be consistent with the colours chosen for different items
  • Encourage use of a highlighter when she sees visual differences in information. For example, she could use different colours to indicate if math problems involve addition, subtraction, multiplication or division.
  • Provide extra one-on-one help with telling time and understanding concepts of money and value.
  • Use well-spaced out worksheets rather than cluttered ones
  • Use “real money” instead of money worksheets. Count and sort coins into categories, and discuss more/less. Play “store”!
  • Use a real (or play) clock the child can physically manipulate. Point out various aspects of a clock and how it changes over time.
  • When doing “long math” computations such as long division or multiplication or adding several double digit numbers, use graph paper or encourage the use of a ruler to draw lines with a coloured pencil to keep number columns aligned.
  • Practice checking for math errors by making it into a game. As her adult helper, do the same work the child has been assigned, and purposely make errors you want her to be able to recognise and fix. Have her help you find your errors, and ask her to “teach” you how to fix them. This “correcting my helper” is a lot more fun than using commercial editing worksheets; also, “teaching” someone else is a very effective way to maintain newly learned skills.
  • Likewise, have the child “teach” a younger child or another peer-aged child who is still having difficulty. Younger children also enjoy “teaching” their stuffies, dolls or other characters.
  • Help the child to learn to use various measuring tools to find out real lengths and distances (rather than worksheet pictures), then learn to estimate lengths and distances without measuring.
  • Find alternative ways to present information other than charts and maps; or use very simplified charts and graphs with large, clear print, and only the most necessary information. Determine what kinds of graphs are easiest for the child to use (pictorial, bar graphs, circle graphs, line graphs…).
  • For math exercises and tests, include fewer questions on each page, and leave lots of white space for calculations, ideally with appropriate lines, graphing, etc. to guide the calculation writing columns.
  • Provide fact tables (addition and multiplication tables, math and science formulas, lists of key words), as well as allowing use of a calculator (a simple one with large, clearly marked keys that provides only the types of calculations needed).
  • Develop definite and consistent steps to use with particular operations and add clear step-by-step instruction sheets to the child’s personal reference binder. Ideally, have her help create her own sheets of steps.
  • Try using “Power of Ten” cards and games. I would suggest the child especially use these tools to work on place value, addition and subtraction of 2 and 3 digit numbers, and problem-solving questions that require the basic number sense skills mentioned above.

What other tips do you have?

Please share them in the comments below. Thanks!

In the posts in this series, we look at:

– the definition and symptoms of visual-spatial processing issues
– diagnosis of visual-spatial processing issues–and other learning differences
– some general suggestions to help a child with visual-spatial processing issues
 reading adaptations for children with visual-spatial processing issues
– writing and spelling adaptations for children with visual-spatial processing issues
math adaptations for children with visual-spatial processing issues

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