Special Needs Kids’ Halloween Math: Trick-or-Treat Offers Real-life Story Problems

Math is used every day. Kids with special needs don’t often understand the connection. The word problems in Math textbooks are often confusing for kids with reading problems. Perhaps they don’t understand the vocabulary. Often the sentence structures are too advanced for the child’s reading skills.

Prediction Builds Reasoning and Speech Skills

Spend time looking through a costume catalog or advertisement to predict which kinds of costumes will come to the door. Prediction is an important skill for Math as well as for Reading (predicting what a story will be about or how it will end). After certain predicted costumes have been chosen, use the ads to help with spelling for this activity. Cut out pictures to use on the graphs below.

Count Costumes to Make Math Visual for the Special Needs Child

Choose several popular, sure-to-show-up, costumes. Perhaps clowns and princesses are the choice. Create a tally, or counting, sheet for each one. The sheets can be visually-friendly for kids with visual tracking problems by using large (one inch) grid paper.

  • Write or draw the type of costume in the upper right-hand corner.
  • Each time someone comes with that type of costume, have the child place one tally mark in a square. If the child is working on writing numbers, have him write the next number in the square. For example, if three clowns have come to the door, the paper will have 1 – 2 – 3 in the squares.
  • At the end of the evening, ask about the number of each. How many clowns came Trick-or-Treating? How many princesses came Trick-or-Treating?

Talk About More or Less to Build Math Concepts

For older kids, use the information from the counting activity above to discuss the concept of more or less. Were there more clowns or fewer clowns? After comparing the numbers, use the symbols to write it down. Perhaps there were more clowns. The symbol representation might be 5 > 3.

Figure How Many More to Make Story Problems Real

Often the wording in Math problems is difficult for kids with special needs. As they learn to watch for certain key phrases, they will know what operation (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) should be performed. The phrase how many more refers to a subtraction problem.

Use the tally sheets from clowns and princesses. If five clowns were tallied, ask this question. How many more clowns came? Then, show the related subtraction problem.

Making Math real-life helps the Down syndrome child understand the concepts. The ADHD child will understand the Math despite language difficulties. The above activities can be extended even further, if multiple costumes were tallied. Various pairs can be pulled to practice more or less. They can also be used for the calculation of how many more. The reluctant learner will be motivated to use Math with a purpose.

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