A Great Math Lesson for the Visually Impaired Early Learner

By Cheryl Gabbert

If you're teaching a visually impaired child in your regular education classroom, you are probably in search of new ways to teach math. A math lesson for visually impaired students requires a bit more thought, but can be done without a lot of extra effort. Here's a great early math lesson to try!

Considerations for Visually Impaired Learners

A math lesson for visually impaired preschoolers does not have to be difficult to prepare. Preschoolers learn with all their senses, and since concrete, 3 dimensional, brightly colored objects are the norm anyway, math manipulatives are already conducive to learning for these children. Children with low vision benefit from high contrast objects, which are easier to see. When teaching young children with visual impairments, use tactile objects like blocks, beads, an abacus, or checkers to teach math skills. Foam numbers work well also, since the child can feel the shape of the number. Games and toys that count out loud as objects are placed inside work well too. Cubes that snap together work well for grouping.

About the Lesson

This lesson makes use of high contrast, brightly colored foam letters - as well as tactile objects like beads, checkers, and the abacus. The abacus is a great counting aid for children with visual challenges because the beads are stable, and can't be dropped and lost. This lesson, which is good for developing emerging math skills, introduces numerals and gives 3 different ways to practice counting out the correct number of objects. The same activity can be used at a higher level for adding or subtracting numbers.

This lesson can be used over and over. Start with lower numbers, and move up as the student gains an understanding of the previously taught numbers. Repetition should regularly be used to reinforce math concepts, so don't forget to practice numbers that have been previously learned.

A Three Way Counting Activity

Objective: This activity will reinforce the relationship between numerals 1-10 and the corresponding number of objects in 3 ways.

You will need:

large foam numbers


large wooden beads

long piece of thin rope

table top abacus


The first step of this lesson is to familiarize the child with numerals. Let the child use their hands to explore foam numbers. As they handle each foam numeral, have them try to remember which one they are holding. For children with low vision who can see them, use brightly colored foam numerals instead of pastels, since these colors are easier to see. Use a contrasting colored background, such as a black piece of paper under light colored numerals, and a white piece of paper under dark colored numerals. This is really helpful for children with low vision.

The next portion of the lesson will show the student the relationship between the foam numerals and the amount of objects each numeral stands for. Choose a foam numeral. Have the student identify the numeral. Then complete the following:

1. Have the student string the correct number of large wooden beads onto a thin rope.

2. Use an abacus to count the correct number out, while saying each number aloud as the student counts.

3. Count out the correct number of checkers and place them beside the foam numeral.

Evaluation: Teacher will observe the student to determine whether a relationship between the numeral and the correct amount of objects is understood.

A math lesson for visually impaired preschoolers doesn't need to be complicated. With a little extra support, many of the same materials you already use in the classroom can be adapted and used to meet these students' needs.