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Docklands Primary School: Supporting students with maths learning difficulties

Learn more about how Docklands Primary School is supporting students with maths learning difficulties.

Docklands Primary School is highly regarded for its maths program, in which every student is supported to excel in maths.

Principal, Adam Bright, says maths is a crucial life skill that either opens doors or becomes a barrier to students’ future opportunities and success. He says: “We have a big responsibility to ensure students master what they need to master. Students need to master foundational maths knowledge and skills.”

Adams says: “Foundational maths skills cause the bridge to hold or fail because they are the entry point to high order mathematical thinking.”

All teachers use evidence-informed explicit teaching that benefits all students and is essential for students with maths learning difficulties. The school also has a maths intervention program for students who need additional support to grasp maths concepts. 

The school’s maths leader, Brydon O’Neill-Guy, is a qualified speech pathologist and teacher with specialist expertise in learning difficulties. Brydon says the school’s maths intervention program is based on a Response to Intervention approach. She says: “The largest tier of instruction is Tier 1, and that is the classroom environment. Across every subject, every day, our teachers use explicit direct instruction - an evidence-based strategy to support student learning. A large part of our Tier 1 instruction is our daily review where our students are asked to recall information that’s previously been learnt. That allows teachers to get a sense of whether information has been learnt or if it needs further review.”

Brydon says student assessment data helps identify students who need further support. If it’s a fluency issue, the students are provided with intervention that focusses on developing their ‘fact fluency’. They attend 15-minute sessions 5 times a week with a trained intervention specialist where they practice fluency and speed.

Brydon says: “Despite high-quality instruction at Tier 1 level, we know 20 per cent of students will still need more targeted and intensive intervention. Those students receive Tier 2 intervention where they are supported to develop their conceptual and procedural knowledge in maths.” 

The school also provides more intensive and highly targeted Tier 3 intervention for students with the highest needs.

Adam says research shows that maths learning difficulties appear very early in life and that student learning won’t improve without intervention. “We know that intervention is more likely to be effective when it’s provided earlier in life rather than later. We aim to identify maths learning difficulties as early as possible so we can intervene as early as possible.” 

Year 2 student, Eva, is just one student who has benefitted from the school’s robust intervention program. She had difficulty with subtraction but can now “count backwards” and is “very confident with it”.

Eva’s message to other students is: “If someone found maths difficult, I would tell them, ‘It’s OK, mistakes make you better at everything, plus they make you better at life and I believe in you’.”

Schools can find evidence-based approaches to effective maths instruction and teaching resources in the Department of Education’s Mathematics Teaching Toolkit.

Note: The term ‘streaming’ is used in the video in the context of short-term and targeted intervention. It does not apply to semi-permanent segregated streaming of students in a classroom setting, which is not recommended.