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MEP learning pack

Masters in Educational Practice: Numeracy learning pack


Numeracy and inclusive practice


Numeracy screening and intervention

Examples of assessment/screening tools for dyscalculia/numeracy difficulties.

  1. Chinn, S (2012) More Trouble with Maths. A complete guide to identifying and diagnosing mathematical difficulties (David Fulton Publishers)
  2. Butterworth, B (2003) Dyscalculia Screener. London: nferNelson

Chinn offers 31 characteristics that can lead to maths failure in his Dyscalculia Checklist (2012) and Butterworth offers a Dyscalculia Screener (2003). For example, learners with dyscalculia:

  • struggle to ‘see’ that four objects are 4 without counting
  • struggle to move beyond the management of numbers by counting on in ones
  • for mental arithmetic they cannot call on addition facts, but must depend every time on using their fingers/blocks/other concrete methods, to count on in ones to reach an answer for a sum such as 6+3
  • find subtraction is difficult because it requires counting backwards and they can lose track and make counting errors
  • find estimation difficult
  • cannot generalise that 10–4 has the same outcome as 10p–4p
  • have difficulty with mastering place value.

Specialist teaching

Learners with dyscalculia require specialist teaching, and need to be helped to acquire number skills, i.e. the building blocks for numeracy (Henderson, Came & Brough, 2003; Butterworth and Yoe, 2004; Chinn, 2012). In addition, offering educators input on the additional needs of such learners is also recommended (Beswick, K. (2008/2009) (online) (accessed 28 Sept 2013) (external link).

Current numeracy support interventions in Wales (Estyn (April 2010) Improving numeracy in key stage 2 and key stage 3; Estyn (June 2013) Numeracy in key stages 2 and 3: a baseline study)

These reports outline practice for numeracy teaching at Key Stages 2 and 3 in Wales. Below are some observations from the reports:

  • Around half of primary schools in Wales assessed by Estyn have catch-up programmes in place for learners at risk of not reaching the expected numeracy skill levels by the end of Key Stage 2. Those without established programmes are beginning to introduce them or have plans for the future.
  • Primary school interventions tend to last 8–10 weeks and there are often multiple support groups running within the school, with schools offering extra support to anywhere between 3 and 60 learners.
  • A few primary schools involve the parents/carers in their child’s development. Workshops are run to encourage a family approach to numeracy, with the learners demonstrating their skills to their parents/carers and working with them to make board games practising the strategies. It was reported that parents respond well to these workshops, feeling more confident in helping their child at home.
  • The decision of when to run support groups can have a large effect on their effectiveness. In primary schools some learners are taken out of mathematics or literacy lessons every week for this support. However, it can be considered that this method can leave the learner further behind in those subjects.
  • Secondary school support groups are more common, with the majority of assessed schools offering interventions. These groups often continue throughout Year 7 with follow-ups in subsequent years to check the learner’s progress. Some schools support up to 50 Year 7 learners throughout the year. These children are often taken out of registration periods to avoid missing lessons. If this is not possible the timing of the sessions is often changed every week, avoiding the learner missing the same subject every time.
  • An increasing number of secondary schools are creating a ‘buddy’ system, using older learners to teach and support a learner with difficulties in numeracy. These buddies are often given specific training by the school and receive credit towards awards such as the Duke of Edinburgh, requiring working with others. Measuring outcomes of these buddy interventions would be useful.
  • Overall, the most effective interventions offer clear guidelines over how learners are selected. Learners are often much more confident with mathematics after a support programme, with some moving up mathematics sets.
  • A good quality room dedicated to educational interventions is also beneficial, allowing for visual demonstrations of numerical concepts, such as number lines.
  • A few local authorities use the Strategic Intervention Grant (This has now been subsumed within the School Effectiveness Grant) to employ specialist teachers to move between schools. It is recommended that there is a member of staff present in the school who will eventually take over and run the groups themselves. This also increases the expertise in the school.
  • Various resources are used throughout Wales. Materials provided by the government are often used, sometimes from England and translated for Welsh schools. These resources are most effective when supplemented by other materials and equipment, such as widely used ICT programmes.
  • To create effective support programmes for learners schools should:
    • involve the local authority to get as much support as possible
    • encourage parents/carers to get involved
    • allow specialists to collaborate with teachers
    • have small groups of 4–5 children
    • track progress well.

Catch-up programmes

Catch-up programmes can be used to help a learner catch up with their peers when there are recognised problems or difficulties with a learner’s understanding of literacy or numeracy.

Welsh Government has produced guidance which contains summaries of literacy and numeracy catch-up programmes that are available in Wales and that are proven to be effective in terms of accelerating improvement in literacy and numeracy skills, based on reliable research evidence.

The Guidance for literacy and numeracy catch-up programmes aims to provide greater consistency in terms of the quality and effectiveness of catch-up programmes being delivered in schools. This guidance document has been developed as one of the joint key actions under the National Literacy Programme (NLP) and National Numeracy Programme (NNP).


Beswick, K. (2008/2009) ‘Influencing Teachers' Beliefs about Teaching Mathematics for Numeracy to Students with Mathematics Learning Difficulties’ in Mathematics Teacher Education and Development 2007/2008, 9, pp3–20.

Butterworth, B. (2003) Dyscalculia Screener. London: nferNelson.

Butterworth, B. and Yeo, D. (2004) Dyscalculia Guidance. London: nferNelson.

Chinn, S. (2012) More trouble with maths: A complete guide to identifying and diagnosing mathematical difficulties. Routledge, David Fulton Book.

Henderson, A., Came, F. and Brough, M. (2003) Working with Dyscalculia. Learning Works.

Welsh Government (2012). Guidance for literacy and numeracy catch-up programmes. Guidance document no: 088/2012. Cardiff: Welsh Government.

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