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How to Focus Attention on Math Worksheets


A big worksheet full of math problems can be big trouble for kids who have trouble focusing, whether because of ADD, ADHD, visual perception problems, learning disabilities, or fine motor weakness. Ideally, the teacher would know to provide pages without a lot of numbers packed together, with plenty of space for weak writers to write, and without visual distractions. If that's not happening, a "forced focus" sheet can help you keep your learner's mind and pencil on the problem at hand.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: Less than if you just tried nagging

Here's How:

  1. Start with a stiff piece of paper. A heavyweight piece of typing or printer paper will do, as will a sheet of construction paper. Best of all might be half of a manilla file folder.
  2. Measure the height and width of a problem on the worksheet, including space at the bottom for writing an answer and space at the top, if needed, for borrowing or carrying.
  3. Using a ruler, trace a square or rectangle in the center of the stiff piece of paper that matches the measurements you made.
  4. Using the ruler and a craft knife or box cutter, cut out the shape you traced. This should give you an opening big enough to view the problem and write an answer, but not to see any adjacent problems.
  5. Have your child place the cut-out space over each problem as he or she works it. The stiff edges of the paper will keep writing within an appropriate space.
  6. Set a specific number of problems as a goal your child has to reach to get a small reward. Depending on your child's attention span and the difficulty of the work, it might be a row of problems, three problems or one problem. Try giving a cracker or piece of cereal for each goal met.
  7. Keep a folder or envelope full of your "forced focus" sheets to use with different types and sizes of worksheets. After a while, you should have one to fit most worksheet sizes.


  1. Orient the "forced focus" page depending on what your child finds most distracting. If he is distracted by seeing problems near the one he's working on, turn the stiff paper horizontally before cutting out the opening so that it will always be wider than the row your child is working on. If she gets distracted by seeing many rows of problems on a page, keep the stiff paper turned vertically when you cut the shape so that the length of the worksheet will always be concealed.

What You Need

  • Stiff sheets of paper
  • Craft knife or box cutter
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Small rewards, such as crackers or stickers
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