Commenced in January 2007
Frequency: Monthly
Edition: International
Paper Count: 32468
Teaching Math to Preschool Children with Autism

Authors: Hui Fang Huang Su, Jia Borror


This study compared two different interventions for math instruction among preschoolers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The first intervention, a combination of discrete trial teaching and Strategies for Teaching Based on Autism Research (STAR), was the regular math curriculum utilized at the preschool. The second activity-based, naturalistic intervention was Project Mind, also known as Math is Not Difficult. The curricular interventions were randomly assigned to four preschool classrooms with ASD students and implemented over three months for Project MIND. Measurements gained during the same three months for the STAR intervention were used. A quasi-experimental, pre-test/post-test design was selected to compare which intervention was the most effective in increasing mathematical knowledge and skills among preschoolers with ASD. Standardized pre and post-test instruments included the Bracken Basic Concept Scale-3 Receptive, the Applied Problems and Calculation subtests of the Woodcock-Johnson IV Tests of Achievement, and the TEMA 3: Test of Early Mathematics Ability – Third Edition. The STAR assessment is typically administered to all preschoolers at the study site three times per year, and those results were used in this study. We anticipated that the implementation of these two approaches would lead to improvement in the mathematical knowledge and skills of children with ASD. Still, it is essential to see whether a behavioral or naturalistic teaching approach leads to more significant results.

Keywords: Autism, mathematics, preschool, special education.

Procedia APA BibTeX Chicago EndNote Harvard JSON MLA RIS XML ISO 690 PDF Downloads 612


[1] Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. (2013). Washington: American Psychiatric Publishing.
[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Autism Spectrum Disorder. Retrieved from
[3] Brunner, D. L., & Seung, H. (2009). Evaluation of the Efficacy of Communication-Based Treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorders. Communication Disorders Quarterly,31(1), 15-41. doi:10.1177/1525740108324097
[4] Lovaas, O. I. (1987). Behavioral treatment and normal educational and intellectual functioning in young autistic children. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology,55(1), 3-9.
[5] Dawson, G. (2011). Behavioral interventions in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder: A review of recent findings. Current Opinion in Pediatrics, 23, 616-620.
[6] Stichter, J. P., Riley-Tillman, T. C., & Jimerson, S. R. (2016). I am assessing, understanding, and supporting students with autism at school: Contemporary science, practice, and policy. School Psychology Quarterly,31(4), 443-449. doi:10.1037/spq0000184
[7] Ahearn, W. H., & Tiger, J. J. (2013). Behavioral approaches to the treatment of autism. In G.J. Madden (Ed.), APA handbook of behavior analysis. (Vol. 2, p. 301-328). American Psychological Association.
[8] Lerman, D. C., Valentino, A. L., & Leblanc, L. A. (2016). Discrete Trial Training. Evidence-Based Practices in Behavioral Health Early Intervention for Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, 47-83. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-30925-5_3
[9] Eikeseth, S., Smith, D. P., & Klintwall, L. (2014). Discrete trial teaching and discrimination training. Handbook of early intervention for autism spectrum disorders: research, practice, and policy, 293-324.
[10] Cowan, R. J., & Allen, K. D. (2007). Using naturalistic procedures to enhance learning in individuals with autism: A focus on generalized teaching within the school setting. Psychology in the Schools, 44, 701–715.
[11] Wong, C., Odom, S. L., Hume, K. Cox, A. W., Fettig, A., Kucharczyk, S., … Schultz, T. R. (2015). Evidence-based practices for children, youth, and adults with autism spectrum disorders. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, Autism Evidence-Based Practice Review Group. Retrieved from
[12] National Autism Center. (2015). National Standards Project-2. Author.
[13] Losardo, A., & Bricker, D. (1994). Activity-based intervention and direct instruction: a comparison study. American Journal of Mental Retardation, 98(6), 744-765.
[14] Su, H. F. (2002). Project MIND — math is not difficult. Journal of Mathematics Education Leadership, 5(2), 26–29.
[15] Schumm, J., Lee, O., Bessell, A., Jean-Francois, J. Rangel, A. al et (1999). The 1999 evaluation report for the South Florida Annenberg Challenge: Case studies. Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami.
[16] Su, H. F. Lai, L. & Riviera, J. (2010). Using an exploratory approach to help children with autism learn mathematics. Creative Education Journal, 1(3), 149–153.
[17] Su, H. F. (2003). Don’t be puzzled by math. NCSM Journal of Mathematics Education Leadership, 6(2), 1–7.
[18] Agrawal, J., & Baker, P. H. (2013). The effects of explicit instruction with manipulatives on the fraction skills of students with autism (Doctoral dissertation, George Mason University, 2013) (p. 1-239). Fairfax, VA.
[19] Mayes, S. D., & Calhoun, S. L. (2006). Frequency of reading, math, and writing disabilities in children with clinical disorders. Learning and Individual Differences,16(2), 145-157. doi:10.1016/j.lindif.2005.07.004
[20] Barnett, J. E., & Cleary, S. (2015). Review of Evidence-based Mathematics Interventions for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities,50(2), 172-185.
[21] Browder, D. M., Spooner, F., Ahlgrim-Delzell, L., Harris, A. A., & Wakemanxya, S. (2008). A Meta-Analysis on Teaching Mathematics to Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities. Exceptional Children,74(4), 407-432. doi:10.1177/001440290807400401
[22] Snell, M. E., & Brown, F. (2000). Instruction of students with severe disabilities. Prentice-Hall.
[23] Carlson, E., Frank, J., Bitterman, A., & Keller, B. (2011). A Longitudinal View of the Receptive Vocabulary and Math Achievement of Young Children with Disabilities. National Center for Special Educational Research, 1-105.
[24] Arick, J., Loos, L., & Falco, D. (2015, 2004). Introduction to the STAR Program, Second Edition (2nd Ed., Manual). PRO-ED, Inc.
[25] Ginsburg, H. P., & Baroody, A.J. (2003). Test of Early Mathematics Ability Third Edition (TEMA-3). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
[26] Schrank, F. A., Mather, N., & McGrew, K. S. (2014). The Woodcock-Johnson IV Tests of Achievement. Riverside.
[27] Bracken, B. A. (2006). Bracken Basic Concept Scale Receptive Third Edition. Pearson.
[28] Faul, F., et al. (2009). Statistical power analyses using G*Power 3.1: Tests for correlation and regression analyses. Behavior Research Methods 2009, 41(4), 1149-1160. Springer.
[29] Broward County Public Schools. 2022. Autism Spectrum Disorder Services. Retrieved from,Autism%20Spectrum%20Disorder%20Services,1%20in%20every%2059%20individuals