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About Early Algebra
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About Early Algebra

Early Algebra: an approach to teaching and learning

Early Algebra covers many topics in mathematics, including the four operations, but it does so in novel ways. Consider the operation of addition. By second grade most students are being taught to add 3 to another number. They have probably not been asked to consider expressions such as "n + 3", where n might refer to any number. In using expressions to describe relations among numbers and quantities, young learners go beyond computational fluency and begin to develop the ability to make mathematical generalizations using algebraic notation.

Early algebra does not aim to increase the amount of mathematics students must learn. Rather, it is about teaching time-honored topics of early mathematics in deeper, more challenging ways. Our position is that children who become familiar with algebraic concepts and tools from an early age and in meaningful contexts will do better in mathematics, regardless of the criteria used.

Early Algebra: an area of research

Early Algebra is also an area of research. The research from our project and others aims to clarify what works and what does not work in an Early Algebra education. As a result, light is shed on the issues young learners inevitably face when they attempt to apply their present modes of representation and reasoning to new circumstances while pointing out the difficulty in reconciling their prior knowledge and experience with new ideas and concepts being introduced in Mathematics classes. Fruitful types of learning activities for educators and curriculum developers are exemplified in our research. We have seen that young learners from typical public schools can understand algebraic expressions and use them to describe relations among numbers and quantities.

For more information please visit Research, Publications, and Lesson Materials

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