What is working memory?

Working memory is the ability to hold onto information for a small or short amount of time. Lots of children that have learning and attention difficulties, also have a poor working memory. Working memory allows us to complete basic tasks and it is vital to learning new information and skills.

When do you use working memory?

An example of when children use their working memory when learning is in mental maths. If a teacher asks the class to add together 10 and 15 and then take away 3, the working memory allows the child to hold and visualise what the sum of 10 and 15 is, whilst still remembering that they must subtract 3. The working memory will hold the information long enough to work it out, but forget the figures minutes later when you have completed the sum or when they aren't necessary anymore.

For example;


(10+15) - 3 = 22


Someone with poor working memory may be able to do the first part of the sum but forget to do the second part. 10+15 = 25

Or, they remember the figures, but not know how what to do with any of them for example. 10, 15 and 3??


What is working memory


So you can see how this would affect their learning. It can be extremely frustrating for the child...or anyone really!


How can EdPlace help?

EdPlace has lots of interactive maths worksheets that are supported visually to ensure that every child can access content. Try some free curriculum-aligned activities by clicking the button below.

Try free maths activities


Most instructions are normally given in a sequence or have a follow-on task;

“Put your coat on your peg and line up quietly by the classroom door”

As you can imagine, there are many different scenarios that could happen here for a child with poor working memory.

Often, it is the last instruction the child may hold in their working memory, so you may find that child will be by the classroom door with their coat on.


What can I do to help?

  • If you have any concerns about your child’s memory, you should always seek medical advice from your GP and speak with your child’s school SENCo.

  • Give instructions one at a time

  • Support verbal instructions with visual or written cues

  • Ask them to repeat what you have just asked them to do (this will secure or consolidate the instruction)

  • Play memory games with your child to exercise and grow their memory power


All of EdPlace’s curriculum-aligned activities are interactive and supported visually to ensure that students are able to access all of the content, regardless of their learning difference. Try some out below!

English worksheets Science worksheets Maths worksheets