Research

Research and Articles on Mathematics and Numeracy Instruction for Students with Significant Disabilities


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Allsopp, D.H., Farmer, J.L., Hoppey, D., Kamp, D.L. Adapting Mathematics Core Curricula to Meet the Needs of Students with Disabilities.TEACHING Exceptional Children March-April 2013 vol. 45 no. 4 59.

This article discusses how several interconnected domains of effective mathematics practice can be used with a response to intervention (RTI) framework can lead to more effective mathematics teaching and numeracy development for students with significant disabilities.

The authors encourage teachers to:

  • emphasize critical areas of mathematical knowledge
  • engage students in multiple was of doing mathematics
  • emphasize effective explicit mathematics instructional practices
  • focus instruction to build understanding, proficiency and maintenance.

Retrieved February 15, 2016. (Abstract only)


Browder et al. Early Numeracy Instruction for Students with Moderate and Severe Developmental Disabilities. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities; December 2012 37: 308-320.

This article looks at how early mathematical skills, which promote mathematical competence for students with learning disabilities, will also enhance learning for students with significant cognitive disabilities. It also identifies four key components to enhance mathematical instruction and numeracy development for students with significant disabilities, including:

  • targeting early mathematical skills
  • using systematic prompting and feedback
  • using math stories in small group instruction
  • embedding early mathematical skills at the same time at working on grade-level content.

Retrieved February 15, 2016. (Abstract only)


Browder, D.M. & Spooner, F. Chapter 8: Beginning Numeracy Skills in More Language Arts, Math, and Science for Students with Severe Disabilities. Paul H. Brooks Publishing Co., 2014.

Early numeracy skills help build mathematical competence and are indicative of mathematical success later in life. Students with significant disabilities tend to enter elementary school lacking a solid foundation in early numeracy skills, and the gap widens as student progress through the grades. Through sound instructional practices, students with severe disabilities can be taught these skills. This chapter discusses systematic instruction and explicit instruction as two promising instructional methods for teaching early numeracy skills to students with significant disabilities. As well, critical early numeracy skills are described followed by research-based practices for teaching them and the specific steps educators can use to teach them.


Browder, D.M. & Spooner, F. Chapter 9: Teaching Grade Aligned Math Skills in More Language Arts, Math, and Science for Students with Severe Disabilities. Paul H. Brooks Publishing Co., 2014.

Mathematics provides an important foundation of knowledge and skills for students with significant disabilities and mathematical learning can enhance their quality of life. Research over the past few years indicates that students with significant disabilities can learn higher level mathematical concepts if they receive effective instruction aligned with meaningful learning experiences. This chapter highlights research-based practices on teaching mathematics to students with significant disabilities including:

  • systematic prompting and feedback
  • graphic organizers and task analytic instruction and
  • direct instruction

Doabler, C.G. et al. Enhancing Core Mathematics Instruction for Students at Risk for Mathematics Disabilities. Teaching Exceptional Children; Mar/Apr2012, Vol 44 Issue 4, p48.

This article offers practical guidelines to enhance math instruction to make it more systematic and explicit, including:

  • prioritizing instruction around critical content.
  • pre-teaching requisite skills to ensure success with new material.
  • carefully selecting and sequencing instructional examples.
  • scaffolding instruction to promote learner independence.
  • modeling and demonstrating instructional tasks that students will learn.
    • using clear concise language; this helps clarify the target, skill or concept.
    • providing several models – but not so many that instruction gets bogged down with a lot of teacher talk.
    • creating opportunities for students to actively participate in models, such as answering questions.
  • providing frequent and meaningful practice and review opportunities.
  • using visual representations of mathematical ideas.
  • delivering timely academic feedback, both corrective and confirmatory.

Retrieved February 15, 2016. (Abstract only)


Jimenez, B.A. & Kemmery, M. Building the Early Numeracy Skills of Students with Moderate Intellectual Disability. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 2013, 48(4), 479–490.

This study investigated the effects of an early numeracy intervention package on early numeracy skill attainment for participants with moderate intellectual disabilities, including autism. The intervention taught students to use nonstandard and standard measurement, counting skills, calendar skills, how to create sets, and how to identify and work with patterns. A single-subject design across three classrooms was employed to evaluate the intervention package. Specifically, three special education teachers used engaging story-based math lessons with embedded systematic instruction to promote the early math concept acquisition of five students with intellectual disability. Results found that all students showed a significant increase in early numeracy skill acquisition after receiving the intervention package. The study’s contributions to research, limitations, need for future research, and implications for practice are discussed.

Retrieved February 16, 2016. (Full PDF of article available)


Jimenez, B.A. & Staples, K. Access to the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics through Early Numeracy Skill Building for Students with Significant Intellectual Disability. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 2015, 50(1), 17–30.

This study extends the research of Browder, Jimenez, Spooner et al. (2012) and Jimenez and Kemmery (2013) by investigating the impact of early numeracy skills instruction on grade-aligned math achievement. In this study, students were taught early numeracy skills (e.g., number identification, making sets to five items, simple addition) using theme based lessons, systematic prompting and feedback, manipulatives and graphic organizers. This study provides evidence that students with significant intellectual disability, including those with multiple disabilities, can learn new math skills that will grant them greater access to grade-aligned math achievement and that students with and without disability need to have fluency within early numeracy skills to truly “understand math”.

Retrieved February 16, 2016. (Full PDF of article available)


Rivera, C.J. & Baker, J.N. Teaching Students with Intellectual Disability to Solve for x. TEACHING Exceptional Children; November/December 2013 46: 14-21.

Research has demonstrated that most math skills taught to students with intellectual and developmental disabilities are functional in nature. Students are often taught rote counting, money skills, and how to tell time. This article describes how to use graphic organizers and task analyses when teaching students with intellectual disability to solve simple one-step algebraic linear equations.

Retrieved February 15, 2016. (Abstract only)


Saunders, A.F. et al. Solving the Common Core Equation: Teaching Mathematics CCSS to Students with Moderate and Severe Disabilities. TEACHING Exceptional Children, v45 n3 p24-33 Jan-Feb 2013.
This article demonstrates how the overall learning experience for students with significant disabilities is enhanced when they participate in learning activities aligned with grade level outcomes in the mathematics program of studies while continuing to work on basic mathematics. The authors describe evidence-based practice that will enhance mathematics instruction for students with disabilities including: constant time delay. least to most prompting, and task analysis.

The article also offers a six-step approach for teaching mathematics to students with disabilities, including:

  • Step 1: Selecting a topic and create objectives.
  • Step 2: Identifying a real-life activity using the skill.
  • Step 3: Incorporating evidence-based instructional practices.
  • Step 4: Including instructional supports.
  • Step 5: Monitoring progress.
  • Step 6: Planning for generalization.

Retrieved February 15, 2016. (Abstract only)