Friday / June 14

Working memory and teaching the ten percent

Contributed by Tracy Alloway and Ross Alloway

‘Working memory’ is the brain’s post-it note. It allows you to hold information in mind and WORK with it. We make mental scribbles of what we need to remember. By understanding working memory you will be able to better support children’s learning and concentration. Most children have a working memory that is strong enough to quickly find the book and open to the correct page, but some don’t – approximately 10% in any classroom. A student who loses focus and often daydreams may fall in this 10%. A student who isn’t living up to their potential may fall in this 10%. A student who may seem unmotivated may fall in this 10%. In the past, many of these students would have languished at the bottom of the class, because their problems seemed insurmountable and a standard remedy like extra tuition didn’t solve them. But emerging evidence shows that many of these children can improve their performance by focusing on their working memory. Working memory is a foundational skill in the classroom and when properly supported it can often turn around a struggling student’s prospects.

Identifying the 10% in your class

Ask your students to do this…

Alloway post 8.27


They have to remember the instructions, remember where they left their math book, and remember the page number.

Often times, the student with poor working memory will remember the math book and pencil, but forget the page number.

5 top tips help improve students’ working memory



Tracy Packiam Alloway

Tracy Packiam Alloway, PhD, is a professor of Psychology at the University of North Florida. Formerly, she was the Director of the Center for Memory and Learning in the Lifespan in the UK. She is an expert on working memory and education, and has published over 75 journal articles and books on this topic. She developed the internationally recognized Alloway Working Memory Assessment (Pearson Assessment, translated into 20 languages). She writes a blog for Psychology Today and Huffington Post. She has also provided advice to Fortune 500 companies, like Prudential, as well as the World Bank and BBC. Find out more about about Tracy at

Ross G. Alloway

Ross Alloway, PhD, CEO of Memosyne Ltd., brings working memory training to educators and parents. Ross developed Jungle Memory, used by thousands of students in over twenty countries. Together with Tracy Alloway, Ross edited an academic book on working memory (Psychology Press) and co-authored a popular science book (Simon & Schuster, translated into 17 languages). He has also has published research with Tracy Alloway on working memory in a variety of contexts, from education to aging, from happiness to lying, from barefoot running to Facebook. Their research has been featured on BBC, ABC News, Huffington Post, Salon, The Washington Post, and Newsweek. He writes a blog for Huffington Post. For more about Ross visit

They are the authors of Understanding Working Memory


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