The main purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of teaching strategies that engage college students who experienced childhood difficulties in learning mathematics in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in terms of the nature of the classroom learning environment and students’ satisfaction. In addition, I investigated how the use of personally-relevant and concrete activities changed the learning environment in ways that were perceived to be beneficial by adults who had experienced failure.A sample of 84 students from eight classes in the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) were involved. The learning environment was assessed as a pretest and posttest with a modified Arabic version of four scales (Involvement, Task Orientation, Personalisation and Individualisation) from the College and University Classroom Environment Inventory (CUCEI). Satisfaction was measured with a modified Arabic version of this scale from the CUCEI. Moreover, five case studies of students were conducted to assess the learning environment through observations, semi-structured interviews and focus-group interviews and to link qualitative information with the constructs assessed by the CUCEI.