Sheffield Dyslexia Centre

Teaching, Supporting, Assessing

The Table Square as a Reasonable Adjustment SDC Oct 20


The Use of a Table Square as a Reasonable Adjustment in Mathematics for Students with Dyslexia and Other Specific Learning Difficulties

There is no doubt that those individuals who can achieve mastery of automatic multiplication fact recall, and manipulation are at an advantage and can perform many mathematical processes more speedily. Obviously, we wish this was achievable by all.  

We would also prefer everyone to be able to hear well and to have full use of their limbs, but we do not ask those with a hearing-impairment to “just listen more carefully” or wheelchair users to “practise running around”. To avoid discrimination under the 2010 Disability Act and to meet the criteria of the SEN Code of Practice, it is important that reasonable adjustments are made for those whose ‘hidden’ specific learning difficulties prevent the efficient retention, recall and manipulation of multiplication and other mathematical facts. 

The learning of multiplication tables is a stressful, largely unproductive and unnecessary activity for students with weak working memory or who process verbal and/or visual information more slowly than their peers.

It becomes evident quite early if a child is struggling to master learning their tables. Even those who can remember facts in isolation find that these are not transferrable to general maths work and the load on working memory results in partial or incorrect recall and unsuccessful outcomes. This is particularly true if they are expected to work at speed in activities intended to practise quick recall such as Times Tables Rockstars or under mental maths test conditions.

More practice does not remediate the underlying difficulties and only leads to short-term gain, frustration and low self-esteem.

Poor tables recall does not correlate with maths ability and can so easily be overcome with the use of a 10 x 10 table square, providing a “level playing field” on which students can develop their mathematical skills appropriately.

The table square can be used for all mathematical processes requiring multiplication facts including, but not exclusively, work involving multiplication, division, fractions, ratio, number properties and algebra.

Where this practice has been supported, students have regularly been able to achieve expected or above expected levels at the end of Key Stage 2 and excellent grades at GCSE and beyond.

The table square has been used, very successfully, by some teachers as a whole class teaching strategy providing a visually based, non-stressful learning experience for all. Each child can use the table square for as long as they need it and those for whom automatic recall is never going to be successful are not stigmatised.

It is important that information regarding the use of a table square as a reasonable adjustment is not lost during transition between primary and secondary schools, so that early assessment in the new school does not result in students being placed in inappropriate teaching groups.

The availability of a table square remains vitally important as the complexity of work increases through school. From our experience, those studying at the Higher level for GCSE are often hampered by the lack of simple table knowledge despite the more demanding concepts being well within their grasp. We have seen many such students proceed to successful further study and maths-based careers.

At all ages, we have a duty to remove barriers and to encourage independence and confidence, as stated within the SEN Code of Practice. Therefore, a table square should be readily available whilst undertaking any maths work within the classroom, for homework and for all non-formal tests and exams. Its use should be encouraged and not seen (even inadvertently) as “cheating” or evidence of lack of mathematical ability.

Currently, students are not allowed to take a pre-prepared table square into formal tests or exams, such as end of Key Stage SATS or GCSE. However, to ensure an accurate reflection of their level of understanding and ability, it is vital that these students do have access to them on these occasions. For this reason, it is important that they are able to produce the table themselves. At an appropriate time for each student, they can be shown how to construct the table from patterns, and with practice, this replication can usually be achieved in under 4 minutes. Under test/exam conditions, this is facilitated by the provision of 1cm squared paper for which permission should be sought for Year 6 SATS and for GCSE exams (and for the latter, recorded on the Form 8 as centre-approved, normal way of working).  

 This simple and inexpensive tool often makes the difference between success and failure for students with dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties and allows them to become confident and proficient mathematicians.


Mrs Karen Anderson (Specialist Teacher and Assessor) B.A (Hons). Education and Audiology (University of Manchester); P.G. Certificate in Special Educational Needs, (Huddersfield Polytechnic); P.G. Diploma (Level 7) in Specific Learning Difficulties (Dyslexia), Dyslexia Institute, by University of York; Associate Member British Dyslexia Association (A.M.B.D.A.); Member of the Dyslexia Guild (MDG); Member of the Professional Association of Teachers of Students with SpLD (PATOSS); Assessment Practising Certificate 0911/293    Author of STEPS Multisensory Maths programme as used by Dyslexia Action.

For further information and advice, please visit Information/ Maths at SDC or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.




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