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NSW Syllabuses

Supporting students in Mathematics with special education needs

The Mathematics K–10 Syllabus recognises that students learn at different rates and in different ways. By using the teaching and learning cycle (assessing, planning, programming, implementing and evaluating), teachers can ensure that the individual learning needs of all students are considered and a learning environment is created that supports students to achieve the outcomes of the syllabus.

Teachers should undertake regular and ongoing assessment to ensure students are making sufficient progress and to identify any difficulties they may be experiencing in their learning.

The following figure illustrates one method of planning and programming that incorporates the principles of assessment:

Special Education Needs outcomes diagram

Most students with special education needs will access learning experiences based on the regular syllabus outcomes and content. However, they may require additional support, including adjustments to teaching, learning and assessment activities.

All decisions regarding curriculum options for students with special education needs should be made within the collaborative curriculum planning process.

When programming for students with special education needs, appropriate teaching procedures and strategies should be selected. Students who are experiencing difficulties generally benefit from:

  • new material presented in small steps
  • additional explanation
  • pre-teaching of expected prior knowledge, strategies and skills necessary for learning new related concepts
  • repeated modelling
  • guided practice
  • extensive independent practice
  • explicit teaching of learning strategies (cognitive and metacognitive strategies)
  • additional teaching and learning experiences at each phase of learning (acquisition, fluency, maintenance, generalisation)
  • instructional scaffolding.

The Mathematics K–10 Syllabus is organised into a Working Mathematically strand and three content strands: Number and Algebra; Measurement and Geometry; and Statistics and Probability.

The syllabus is written with the flexibility to enable students to work at different stages in different strands. For example, students could be working on Stage 4 content in one strand and Stage 3 content in another.

Find further information about the organisation of content in the Mathematics K10 Syllabus.

In particular, students with special education needs may experience difficulties in Mathematics in relation to:

  • insufficient background knowledge and/or lack of fluency with key facts, concepts, strategies and procedures
  • understanding the symbols and language specific to mathematics
  • selecting an appropriate strategy to address a problem, remembering steps in a strategy and/or reflecting on their use of the strategy
  • understanding critical features of a concept and/or generalising key facts, concepts, strategies and procedures to other contexts
  • remembering key facts, concepts, strategies and procedures.

Students with special education needs may require a range of adjustments and assistance in order to develop numeracy skills and apply these across a range of contexts. Suggestions for supporting students with special education needs in Mathematics include:

  • providing multiple opportunities for practice, review, discussion and application
  • use of visual scaffolds to aid memory
  • developing knowledge, skills and understanding that move from simple to complex
  • using examples and non-examples to illustrate a concept
  • modelling mathematics-specific language
  • developing understanding of mathematics-specific language through the use of synonyms, definitions and meanings of prefixes
  • presenting content in smaller, more manageable steps
  • additional demonstration of key facts, concepts, strategies and procedures
  • additional guided practice, independent practice and feedback
  • using instructional scaffolding, such as modelling, cues, partial solutions and teacher questioning
  • demonstrating cognitive strategies to support problem-solving, such as visualising, verbalising, self-questioning, highlighting key information and procedural prompts
  • providing opportunities for metacognitive strategies, such as self-instruction, self-questioning and self-monitoring
  • providing written procedures for problem-solving
  • pre-teaching prior expected learning of key facts, concepts, strategies and procedures necessary for new learning
  • explicit teaching of alternative uses of everyday language in the context of mathematics.

Years 7–10 Life Skills

For some students with special education needs, particularly those students with an intellectual disability, it may be determined that the Years 7–10 Life Skills outcomes and content can provide a more meaningful program. 

For more information in relation to teaching Mathematics to students with special education needs, refer to the following support documents:

Mathematics K–6 Support Document for Students with Special Education Needs