About cookies

The NCETM site uses cookies. Read more about our privacy policy

Please agree to accept our cookies. If you continue to use the site, we'll assume you're happy to accept them.


Personal Learning Login

Sign Up | Forgotten password?
Register with the NCETM

Where can I find support in teaching low attainers in mathematics?

Created on 03 October 2011 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 05 June 2013 by ncetm_administrator


Where can I find support in teaching low attainers in mathematics?


  • Are you worried about how to help the low attaining pupils in your primary school class?
  • Are you a secondary teacher teaching a low set or with pupils who are low attainers?
  • Are you working in a college where you teach mathematics to students who are struggling with mathematics and who are re-sitting lower level qualifications?

If you fit any of these categories, the resources below will be of use to you!


The online NCETM Departmental Workshops for both primary and secondary schools can be used throughout the year. This departmental workshop will enable your team to consider the entitlement of low-attaining students through your mathematics curriculum. The activities explore values and beliefs, alternative presentations of learning activities, and how different representations of situations aid understanding.

The information on the Special Educational Needs Mathematics Teachers microsite will be helpful you if you work with students of any age who struggle to access the mainstream curriculum.

Teachers implementing any form of mathematical intervention can face many hurdles. A major challenge is often trying to decide on the best strategy for the targeted pupils and the most appropriate resources. To explore how teachers can implement effective mathematics intervention strategies, eight networks across the country received funding from the NCETM to trial a range of ways to support groups of underperforming pupils. You can read their case studies in the Supporting teachers to implement effective mathematics – intervention strategies microsite.

If you have a teaching assistant or if you are involved in one-to-one tuition with low attainers, you will find the One-To-One Teaching microsite useful.

If you are working with a teaching assistant, you may want him/her to focus on the low attaining students. Explore with your teaching assistant the microsite written specifically for Teaching Assistants and Other Adults in the Mathematics Classroom. In particular, the Finding and Adapting Resources section is particularly popular.

The departmental workshop focusing on mistakes and misconceptions was designed to encourage teachers to make effective use of the common mistakes and misconceptions students make during lesson time. Many believe that low attaining learners are held back from making progress in mathematics by misconceptions which they hold. You could also work through the online course Looking at mistakes and misconceptions either by yourself or with a colleague.

Discussion Point

The reasons why learners do not make good progress in mathematics are varied. Some may have specific needs, whilst others struggle to understand mathematics. The Puzzled Learner suggests various strategies which you might employ to help such a learner. After working through the various strategies by yourself or with colleagues, discuss:

  • Which of these strategies would work with your students?
  • Do you have to employ different strategies with different students?
  • How do you decide which strategy to employ with which student?
  • Share any other strategies which you have found work.

Explore a piece of mathematics

Always, Sometimes, Never activities reveal whether or not a learner fully understands a topic. Download the cards, cut them out and then stick them onto a large sheet of paper. Draw three columns and label them Always, Sometimes and Never and place the cards under the appropriate column. Now write your reason for putting each card in its column beside the card. Finally write a set of cards for the same activity which you could use with your learners.

Why not share the cards you have written through one of the Forum or online Communities on www.ncetm.org.uk?

Learning from each other

It has been said by some recently that ‘teachers learn best when they learn from each other’. If you know of another link to an activity or resource on the NCETM website that you think would be useful or appropriate for readers of this guidance, please use the comments box below to let us and them know of your idea.

Courses and Networks

We have many courses and networks available, search in our Professional Development Calendar to find a suitable course or network.

Personal Learning

“Activity by itself is not enough; it is the sense that is made of it that matters” (DRIVER, R. (1983) The Pupil as Scientist?, Milton Keynes, Open University Press.

For the things you have tried out for yourself in your own classroom to become useful pieces of professional learning, there is a need to capture them, reflect upon them and remark on them. The NCETM Personal Learning Space (PLS) allows you to do this.

  • Use My Learning Journal to collect your thoughts and reflections as well as to log actions; documents can be attached to your entries. You could do this now by visiting your own PLS.
  • Use My Favourites and Notes to take note of and organise interesting things you have found (like this page) and want to return to easily in future.
  • Use the Sharing and Contacts facility to share elements of your PLS with colleagues, selecting them from your own list of contacts
  • Use the “Request a reminder” function

Find out more details of these and other functions of the PLS.



Comment on this item  
Add to your NCETM favourites
Remove from your NCETM favourites
Add a note on this item
Recommend to a friend
Comment on this item
Send to printer
Request a reminder of this item
Cancel a reminder of this item



There are no comments for this item yet...
Only registered users may comment. Log in to comment