Lee, D. L., & Zentall, S. S. (2002). The effects of visual stimulation on the mathematics performance of children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder . Behavioral Disorders , 27 (3), 272–288. https://journals.sagepub.com/home/bhd

Journal Article
Lee, D. L., & Zentall, S. S. (2002). The effects of visual stimulation on the mathematics performance of children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Behavioral Disorders, 27(3), 272–288. https://journals.sagepub.com/home/bhd


[no doi available]


Attention problem; Audio recording device/software (Response); Color contrast device or software; Elementary; Emotional/Behavioral disability; Math; Middle school; Reinforcement; Screen display; Specialized setting; U.S. context





(Study 1) Test conditions included a low-stimulation presentation of static (without movement) black numbers on a gray computer screen and high-stimulation in which math items were presented "on a colored screen (i.e., various hues of yellow, orange, blue, red, purple, and green) with colored numbers and movement effects (i.e., slides, checkerboards, and fades) as transitions to problems" (p. 275). During the high-stimulation condition, each item response activated the display of the next item, reinforcing on-task behavior. The researchers also noted that each student used a study carrel and were presented each problem on a computer screen, and participants verbally answered each test item. (Study 2) A second computer monitor was added which displayed either "high-competing stimulation" cartoon images transitioned one to the next with visual effects of fading, sliding, and checkerboard, or "low-competing stimulation" of a solid gray screen.


A total of 17 students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) from two specialized urban schools for students with behavioral disabilities in an unidentified location (U.S.) participated. Students ranged from age 8 to age 14 (approximately grade 3 through grade 8). Demographic data including race/ethnicity and ascribed gender were reported. The two studies (Study 1 and Study 2) comprising this document engaged the same sample of students, with slight differences due to attrition and scheduling.

Dependent Variable

Simple operations mathematics tasks, employing a set of single-digit addition items, served as a "sustained-attention task" (p. 275). The number of math items completed, and the number correct, were both documented; group means were calculated. Participants' spoken item responses were recorded by videocamera, along with observed behavior—coded as "talking and noise making, ... visually off task ... torso movement ... [and] limb movement" (p. 275). In both Study 1 and Study 2, performance during the test conditions were compared, and behavioral responses tracked.


In the first study, results revealed that participants completed more problems (and more problems correctly) and were less active in the high within-task stimulation condition compared to the low within-task stimulation. The increased performance in the high within-task stimulation was particularly evident within the first five minutes of the sessions. This finding confirmed previous work that demonstrated that noninformational stimulation added to simple attention tasks can increase student performance. Results from the second study revealed that participants completed more problems in the low-competing stimulation condition than in the high-competing stimulation condition. Previous research showed that adding stimulation can improve task performance, however, that stimulation was presented in a way that allowed students to complete their task simultaneously. In contrast, this study required students to complete their task or view the competing stimulation.