Working memory is a function of the brain which allows us to use information we have obtained, process it, manipulate it and apply it when we think. We use working memory in different parts of our brain so that we can take the action necessary when we want to fulfil a certain task.

Working memory is absolutely essential in all parts of lives whether it involve learning, social interactions or as adults in our professional lives. It allows us to stay focused on a task and we therefore have the ability to block out distractions. We are therefore able to keep an awareness of our surroundings.

The following table demonstrates when working memory is used and what occurs when the working memory is not working efficiently.


Working memory is for:

Working memory needs exercising when:



  • Learning the alphabet
  • Focusing instructions such as “Brush your teeth”
  • Remaining seated to complete tasks, such as puzzles
  • Seems unwilling or unable to learn alphabet, numbers
  • Can’t focus / follow instructions
  • Does not settle on activities

Primary School


  • Reading and reading comprehension
  • Mental arithmetic
  • Interacting appropriately in a peer group i.e. on the play ground
  • Reads (decodes) but does not understand / remember content
  • Difficulty remembering tables
  • Difficulty participating in group activities (e.g. waiting a turn); makes friends but does not keep them

High School


  • Works independently
  • Planning and executing activities
  • Solving maths word problems
  • Planning team sports
  • Understanding of social cues, and social encounters
  • Writing essays


  • Will not do homework without supervision
  • Can’t analyse and understand word problems.
  • Planning and carrying out activity: completed inefficiently. Understanding rules of a game, & becoming a “team player”
  • Interrupts and talks incessantly/does not listen
  • Essays disorganised and incomplete


Working Memory is the Search Engine of the Mind
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