How Mark Overcame His ADHD and ODD to Learn Math at Home

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More than 9 million public school children in the U.S. are learning remotely this year due to the pandemic.


Teaching is overwhelming for many parents — especially mothers, who bear the majority of that responsibility.


“I'm at my wit's end,” laments Delia, who’s been struggling to help her 8-year-old son Mark with his math assignments.


Many parents are in a similar frame of mind, with a list of understandable challenges they face this year.


If your child is learning remotely this year, you may be trying to navigate the teaching role in some capacity.


Parents are getting a first-hand experience with teaching; they’re learning just how hard it can be to teach even the best-mannered, most motivated child.


Delia knew Mark was facing some challenges well before the pandemic hit, and now she’s working to handle them all at home.


Mark has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).


He’s not alone in his struggle to adjust to the new learning environment, either.


“Distance learning is hard on all students,” according to Carrie Goldman’s recent article on parenting and distance learning.


“And it is particularly challenging for youths with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder,” she notes. 


“More than 16 million (9.4 percent) of children in the United States have a diagnosis of ADHD. And according to a national 2016 parent survey, 6 in 10 children with ADHD have at least one other mental, emotional or behavioral disorder, such as anxiety, depression or conduct disorder.”


Parents like Delia and kids like Mark have been used to relying on proper resources in the classroom to help address these challenges. 


Extra teacher time, individualized education plans, and other coping strategies are built into many educational environments.


Now those resources are limited or completely gone.


Challenges

The principal characteristics of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Though ADHD is not considered a learning disability itself, it can negatively impact a child’s learning.


“He is easily distracted and not easily motivated, so he doesn't often finish assignments without a struggle,” says Delia. 


His distractibility and lack of persistence prevent Mark from being able to retain information. 


That means math assignments can be particularly hard. Teaching multiple methods of solving the same math problem is a common trend — and complaint — in today’s classroom.


Kids of all learning abilities struggle to memorize multiple steps to solve math, without ever understanding the concept behind what they’re learning.


Delia noticed this problem when Mark was still in the classroom.


“He had difficulties remembering the process of doing math problems. It took such a long time to establish addition and then the class moved on to money and telling time and he forgot how to do [previously learned concepts].”


Delia’s complaint rings true for many parents: “There are just too many different ways to learn [math].”


It ends up being an unending cycle of trying and failing to remember so many steps. That sense of failure would leave most of us feeling unmotivated and unconfident, no matter how capable we actually are.


“Mark is very creative and loves Legos and building things. He is smart but doesn't know it. He lacks confidence,” says Delia.


Finding Elephant Learning

It turns out that many of the coping strategies for distance learning also apply to teaching ADHD kids.


Empowering kids with some choices in their learning is one strategy. 


That can mean letting them choose where they sit, what they sit on (maybe an exercise ball to let them bounce as they read), or whether they sit at all. 


Some parents are finding great success in letting their kids decide which assignment they want to tackle first. 


One mom teaching her daughter this way noted that “The shift in her demeanor was dramatic. We first started with allowing her to choose which subject she tackled first, then second. Having that tiny bit of choice liberated her strong-willed self. It meant that when it came time for her to deal with harder subjects, she felt ready to do so. We didn’t have a single fight.”


When kids are empowered to choose their learning tasks, they become more interested and invested in those activities. Nurturing that active engagement not only facilitates learning, it leads to more successful information retention.


Basically, the more interested you are in an activity, the more likely you are to remember its affiliated information.


That’s not always an option with distance learning — some kids are expected to follow the structure of the school day as outlined by the school.


But if you can find little choices for your kids to make, it can result in a big difference.


Another coping strategy is taking regular breaks from learning. In fact, that’s a good habit for parents too.


Devorah Heitner, author of “Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World,” advises: “Try to create realistic working blocks. Most kids can only work for 20 minutes before needing a break.” 


“When possible, have kids get up, go into a different room and do something that would give their brains and bodies the kind of break they would get traveling from classroom to classroom, running into friends and just being somewhere other than home,” says Daren Molina, a sports medicine specialist at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. 

These coping strategies — student choice and learning breaks — are among many others that Elephant Learning addresses, so kids like Mark can get re-engaged and confident in their math abilities.

Related: How Kingston Overcame ADHD to Learn Math


Mark’s Experience with Elephant Learning

Elephant Learning math games are designed by education researchers who have studied successful math gamification models.


For a kid like Mark, this fun, game-like approach to doing math is exactly what he needs to hold his attention.


He gets to choose from a wide variety of games that use age-appropriate animations. He’s playing with cats, basketballs, and spaceships while he unknowingly learns math concepts like addition and subtraction. 


As Mark plays his math games, the program adapts to his learning progress. He doesn’t get bored, because once he’s mastered a concept the program introduces more challenging material. 


And if he does struggle, the program adjusts accordingly to prevent unnecessary frustration.


Remember Mark’s frustration memorizing multiple math steps? That’s a thing of the past.


What makes Elephant Learning so effective is that it teaches math concepts, not procedures. That means your child is learning how to problem-solve rather than memorizing a series of steps for a designated problem.


Their confidence in their math abilities isn’t tied to a specific style of solving math problems. That’s how Elephant Learning is 100 percent compatible with all math standards and curriculums.


When your child learns the universal language of mathematics, it means they can more easily adapt to their rapidly changing world — new teachers, new curriculum, and new learning environments.


The result is a student who experiences increased understanding, increased learning, and increased confidence.


For kids like Mark, that means their confidence in their math abilities isn’t tied to how well they know a specific type of problem. They can rely on their trained, mathematical intuition to tackle a problem regardless of the context.


As for scheduling breaks, that’s easy with Elephant Learning.


The app provides unlimited access 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That means your child can play during any ideal time of day or night.


And they only need to average 30 minutes of playtime each week. Many parents choose to spread those 30 minutes out over a couple of days. 


This model is paying off for Mark. When he began Elephant Learning he was doing math below his age level. After 15 weeks, he’s mastered over three years of math concepts.


His kid sister Ava, who is only 4-and-a-half years old, began playing on Elephant Learning too. She’s almost caught up with her big brother!


It’s rare that a child is performing at their age level when they begin Elephant Learning. But it’s never too early, or too late, to get your kids on a path to lasting math-solving confidence.


Related: Attitude is Everything in Learning Math


Mark’s Results

  • Age: 8
  • Starting Elephant Learning Age: 4.4
  • Current Elephant Learning Age: 7.7
  • The difference after 15 weeks: 3.3 years


Ava’s Results

  • Age: 4.5
  • Starting Elephant Learning Age: 3.5
  • Current Elephant Learning Age: 7.6
  • The difference after 15 weeks: 4.1 years


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