ADHD Anecdote–Math Homework

There’s a home video in our family archives that makes me smile (a little sadly) because it represents so much of my childhood.

My dad has a video-camera that he’s brought home from work. He’s panning around the living room, talking to the kids (there were five of us in all, but at this point there were probably only four). He talks for a minute to the younger kids. Then he pans over to the kitchen table. And sitting there, my brother Chris (who also has ADHD-I) and I look up at smile at the camera. I am about eight, and Chris is about six.

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“What are you guys doing?” he asks cheerfully.

“Homework,” we reply. “Math,” one of us says.

“And what number are you on now?” Dad asks.

Chris holds up his paper, “number…. eight.” He smiles.

“And how long have you guys been at it?”

We both look at each other sheepishly and laugh. Dad reveals that it’s been about three hours. That’s right. We’ve been sitting at that table, working on one page math worksheets for three hours.

This wasn’t a one-time occurrence. This happened every single day one of us had math homework. We would sit, and try to focus, and the hours would pass and pass and we couldn’t.

Why were “too lazy” to finish. Why couldn’t we just buckle down and do it? Why couldn’t we understand that once we just finished, we could go play Nintendo, or do any number of other things? Why were we so obstinate and unfocused, choosing to avoid the work than actually do it (even though we were sitting at the kitchen table the whole time, not doing anything else)?

I’m sure my parents asked themselves these questions a lot, and were baffled by us. And that’s understandable. It’s unfortunate that there wasn’t more information about this in the 80’s. We were probably very, very frustrating to watch.

Yet, watch it we all did, year after year after year.


  1. oh, Josh. That's a sad story. Gives me chills, actually. I'm so thankful you'll have a different perspective for the young people you meet and even for your own kids if they also have the focusing problems…you are such a kind man…amazingly brave as far as I'm concerned…

  2. Wow, thanks Marcia. I really appreciate that. Yeah, that something that makes me feel good actually: at least if my kids end up having attention difficulties, I'll have access to resources to be able to help them.

  3. Crap. This exact thing happened to me all through elementary school. With math especially. I just couldn't for the life of me do the stupid problems. I would be bored stiff out of my mind and it would still take me HOURS. I had the ability, I just couldn't focus. (cleaning my room was worse though, talk about distraction!) I've been worried that I have ADHD-I for a little while… and don't like the labels I've had attached to it. (hyperactive, stupid) Sigh.. I've been trying to tell myself I'm just trying to identify/empathize, but to no avail. I've called myself lazy for as long as I can remember. Too many details to share.. but I am pretty darn convinced that this is why I am such an awful manager of my own time, and can never finish anything. Thanks for all the free blog therapy! Now I need to figure out what to do about it…

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