Get your Child Prepared for Algebra

Sep 10, 2017 | Princeton

Most students start taking pre-algebra in 6th or 7th grade and algebra in 7th or 8th 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 level of abstraction than arithmetic. Algebra also requires skills in logic and mathematical reasoning.


Children who understand arithmetic usually do well in algebra. Likewise, children who have math gaps in arithmetic, find the added abstraction of algebra makes it even more difficult than arithmetic. The thinking skills required for algebra takes time and practice so starting early is a good idea.

Even young children can start thinking algebraically.


How to Check for Algebraic Thinking Skills of your Young Child

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. Instead of using “x” as the variable, you are just leaving a blank. 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?

We start by building a strong arithmetic foundation and start to integrate algebraic thinking in elementary school children. We fix any arithmetic gaps before they get to algebra. Our assessment and individualized instruction at Mathnasium of Princeton is the perfect algebra preparation.


What if My Child is Already in Algebra?

It is never too late to get help! For children already in algebra we follow a three pronged approach.

1)   Fix any gaps in arithmetic.

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

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

When you enroll your child at Mathnasium of Princeton for help in algebra we use part of our instruction time on our own curriculum, and part of the time on their homework. They will work on any math gaps, discuss why their homework tells them to use particular formulas, and get plenty of practice, and feedback.


Have questions? Call us anytime at 609-256-6284