Supporting Visual-Spatial Processing Needs in a Mathematics Classroom


ETAP 623 Fall 2019 (Zhang) | Amber Ho

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Overview and Purpose

For any teacher planning a lesson, one must consider how to reach all learners in a classroom. Perhaps you've experienced a time when a student wasn't understanding the material, and after demonstrating the content in multiple ways it still didn't seem to help?

This course is specifically designed to help mathematics teachers determine alternative ways of supporting students with specific visual-spatial processing needs.

Visual processing is an individual's ability to think about visual patterns and stimuli. This process includes the ability to generate, perceive, analyze, synthesize, manipulate, transform, and think with visual patterns. Individuals with visual processing deficits may also need more time to understand stimuli they are facing. Particularly in math, this cognitive deficit can greatly inhibit a student's ability to understand and interpret graphs, charts, and other types of diagrams.

By the end of this mini-course, educators should have designed a support for their students to use in their specific grade-level mathematics classroom. This support could be for a specific lesson, unit, or course for the whole school year.

Needs Assessment

Many schools in today's society are deciding to have heterogeneous-ability classrooms. In other words, classrooms are no longer necessarily sorted based on student ability. Low-performing students are working side by side with high-achieving classmates. This has shown to have many academic benefits to students' learning and achievement, however teachers need to continue to build on their knowledge of how to support every type of learner. Teachers who are not certified in special education will need the tools to support students with IEPs and 504 Plans more than ever.

Specifically in mathematics classrooms, students who may require extra services or supports often have visual-spatial cognitive deficits or needs. Visual processing is an individual's ability to think about and understand visual patterns and stimuli. Students with these processing deficits often struggle with math calculations, as well as analyzing and creating charts and diagrams. If mathematics teachers, regardless of their certification, can use skills and strategies to support these specific needs, all students will reach higher levels of academic achievement.

Performance Objectives

By the end of this course, learners will reach the following outcomes:

  • Given a selection of readings, learners will be able to define the concept of visual-processing and identify examples of visual-spatial cognitive needs.
  • Given examples of visual-spatial deficits, learners will be able to identify and select supporting strategies for those needs.
  • Given the knowledge from this mini-course, learners will develop a support for their students to use in a lesson or unit of their choice.

Course Lessons

This mini-course is broken down into four main units. Click the title of each unit to go to its page.

Unit 1: Visual-Spatial Processing

This unit covers the definition of visual-processing, as well as specific details about visual-spatial processing needs in a classroom. Learners will read about examples of visual-spatial cognitive needs and develop goals for themselves for this mini-course.

Unit 2: Visual-Spatial Cognitive Needs

This unit discusses how to identify students with visual-spatial processing needs, both within an educational plan document and for general education students. Learners will identify specific struggles these students face in a mathematics classroom. Lastly, learners will reflect on their own experience with students who have or may have had visual-spatial processing needs.

Unit 3: Strategies to Support Visual-Spatial Processing Needs

This unit focuses on specific strategies mathematics teachers can use in their classroom to support students with visual-spatial cognitive needs. Specific visual examples will be given to the learner to reference. The learner will compare and contrast strategies for certain types of activities or lessons, as well as reflect on their own experience with the same or similar strategies.

Unit 4: Implementing Strategies to Support All Students

This final unit focuses on the learner purposefully developing a specific strategy or scaffold to use in their own classroom.


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