Improving working memory Evaluation report and executive summary

This project tested the Improving Working Memory intervention (WM) and an adapted version, entitled the Working Memory Plus intervention (WM+). Working memory is the ability to remember and manipulate information over short time-frames. Previous research has suggested that working memory is a reliable predictor of numeracy outcomes. The Improving Working Memory intervention aimed to improve the numeracy skills of Year 3 pupils (aged 7-8) who were behind the class average in numeracy by improving their working memory capacity. The intervention, developed and previously tested by a team at Oxford University, combined the explicit teaching of working memory strategies by Teaching Assistants (TAs) and the independent practice of these strategies using web-based games. The intervention was delivered in ten one-hour sessions and lasted for one term. The Working Memory Plus intervention also had ten sessions, but only five were focused on working memory, whilst the other five were focused on arithmetic content. The project was a randomised controlled trial (RCT). 127 schools participated, being randomised at the school-level to one of three arms – the Improving Working Memory intervention, the Working Memory Plus intervention, or a business as usual control group. The primary outcome was maths attainment and the project also looked at working memory, and attention and behaviour in class as secondary outcomes. The process evaluation included fieldwork with eight intervention schools (four from each intervention), and an online survey of treatment and control schools. The trial took place between September 2016 and July 2017.

Authors citation
Wright, W. Dorsett, R., Anders, J., Buzzeo, J, Runge, J., & Sanders, M.
London: Education Endowment Foundation
Year of Study
Program Evaluated

Working Memory Intervention

Tutor Type
Teaching Assistant
5 months
Sample size
Grade Level(s)
2nd Grade
Student-Tutor Ratio
Small group
Effect Size
Study Design
Cluster Randomized
Full citation

Wright, W. Dorsett, R., Anders, J., Buzzeo, J, Runge, J., & Sanders, M. (2019). Improving working memory. Evaluation report and executive summary. London: Education Endowment Foundation.