Most students start taking pre-algebra in 8th or 9th grade and algebra in 9th or 10th grade. Before taking an algebra class, most students mainly learn arithmetic in math class. Arithmetic is “the branch of mathematics dealing with the properties and manipulation of numbers.” Algebra is arithmetic with variables, or symbols, representing an unknown quantity. The variables in algebra require students to think at higher levels of abstraction than arithmetic. Algebra also requires skills in logic and mathematical reasoning.

Children who understand arithmetic usually do very well in algebra. Likewise, children who have math gaps in arithmetic, find the added abstraction of algebra difficult. The thinking skills required for algebra take time and practice to master so starting early is a good idea.

Even young children can begin to think algebraically. If you have a child under the age of 10, try this beginning exercise in algebraic thinking. Count out a total quantity of pennies, or any small object. The younger the child, the lower the total quantity should be. Write down that total. Now hide some of the pennies. The hidden quantity becomes the variable or the unknown. Have your child figure out how many pennies you hid by counting the pennies still showing. For this example, let’s say you have 9 pennies and leave 4 showing. You would write

____ + 4 = 9

Your child has to use logic to figure out that you must have hidden 5 pennies. That is basic algebra!

Of course the algebra courses in middle school and high school are much more complex, but they operate on the same principle.

**How Do We Make Algebra Easier?**

In elementary school we start by building a strong arithmetic foundation and integrate algebraic concepts early by using blanks rather than letters to represent the unknown or missing quantity. We fix any math gaps before a student gets to algebra 1. Our assessment and individualized instruction at Mathnasium of Parker are the perfect algebra preparation.

If your child is already taking, or about to start algebra, we follow a three pronged approach.

1) Fix any glaring gaps in arithmetic.

2) Teach why certain strategies and formulas are used in algebra. Understanding the "why" improves abstract thinking abilities.

3) Practice algebra skills until they feel like second nature.

When you enroll your child at Mathnasium of Parker, for help in algebra we use part of our instruction time using our own curriculum, and part of the time on their math homework. Our instructors will work on any math gaps, discuss why a child's homework tells them to use particular formulas, and give the student plenty of practice, and feedback. Have questions? Call us anytime at 303-840-1184

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· Stop The Tears, Arguments, and Whining During Math Homework

· What Does a ‘C’ in Math Really Mean?

· Is Your Child Dependent on Algorithms … and is that a Bad Thing?

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