Algebraic Thinking: What does it mean to you?

Algebraic Thinking: What does it mean to you?

January 14, 2013

I posted that question on Facebook and had the response that it meant a “headache” and then some people posted that they liked that response. Which I think is actually the first thought of many a teens, parent of a teen and possibly some teachers. Why is that? And what can we do to change that?

This year I am dedicated to trying to help inform educators, parents and child care providers about fun and engaging ways to help children, in the elementary grades, with algebraically thinking with the hope that this starts a math revolution…. well maybe at least prevent a math revulsion.

Algebra is the “gateway” to higher education. Failure rates in algebra are staggering is schools district across the country. This lack of success is disproportionately high among higher needs students and impacts high school graduation rates. Some schools have looked at having students take algebra over a two or three year period or having double periods of algebra but the success rates has not changed.

There are a few key algebraic concepts that we want student to understand, even in the earliest grades, and each month we will touch on one of these key components and give examples how to implement it in your classrooms, afterschool programs or homes.

First Key Component is Patterns: Patterns exist in math all of the time. We need to train students to look for patterns and to expect to find patterns in all math work. Starting in kindergarten, students should frequently make and find patterns. As they do this they will become more skilled with basic problems, which will prepare them to find patterns in their natural world, notice growing patterns, and make generalizations to harder problems. When student find pattern in smaller problems, they are learning mathematical concepts that will equip them to solve more complex problems such as proportionality.

Here are two lessons on patterning. Check our website to see what other algebraic thinking lessons we offer.

Stick to it

funny faces