Sally is 15 and is a bright girl. She is in the top stream for English, history and French and is expected to get top grades in most of her GCSEs. However, she is in the bottom set for Maths. She has always found maths a problem but has usually found ways of getting round it and is adept at using a calculator. On working with Sally it was noticed that she could not apply maths patterns; she could not see how 5 + 3 could relate to 15 + 13 nor could she understand whether 37 or 32 was nearest to 40. Although Sally could rhyme off the times tables she could not apply them. By GCSE stage it was really too late to help Sally properly; she had developed ingrained avoidance tactics for maths and had not enough self-confidence to make much progress.
Gary is 13. He has dyslexia and has been receiving help for this. He then told his teacher he found maths difficult but wanted to do well. In class he said he often thought he knew the answers and put his hand up only to be laughed at when he got it wrong. It was discovered that the difficulty lay in the fact that he found the reading and understanding of maths questions to be a problem related to his dyslexia. His memory was also poor and so he was picking up on single words and not the whole question. When he used a calculator he was entering the wrong figures and also misreading the answers. The strategy used here was to work with the learning support teacher in advance of the lessons, discussing the language which would be used and also reinforcing basic skills regularly.