Mathematics

Connecting Arithmetic to Algebra

by Jackie Greene

What groundwork can be set by the elementary and middle school curriculum to lead students to see algebra as an extension of their arithmetic skills?

How can the algebra curriculum activate students’ prior knowledge of arithmetic to make connections to algebraic thinking?

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  • Apr19th9:33am

    From Kate

    What groundwork can be set by the elementary and middle school curriculum to lead students to see algebra as an extension of their arithmetic skills? I think that elementary and middle school curriculums need to focus on fully developing students understanding of core mathematical concepts: the operations and fraction/decimals. I firmly believe that students would perform better in algebra if their arithmetic skills were solid and well developed. I often find that students who struggle with the abstract concepts in algebra are often the students that do not fully understand or are not strong in the arithmetic behind the algebra. I actually asked my 10th grade homeroom this question. They have all taken Algebra 1, and I was interested in their perspective in regards to this question. Interestingly enough, their answers were similar to the feelings I expressed in the above paragraph. One student even commented that they were presented with and required to memorize so many different methods for multiplying, that it became overwhelming and took away from the actual process of learning to multiply. I also think that the idea of a variable and an unknown could be introduced, superficially, in the middle level curriculum. I believe that if students become familiar with the idea of an "unknown" prior to enetering algebra, that it would be easier for them to be successful. How can the algebra curriculum activate students’ prior knowledge of arithmetic to make connections to algebraic thinking? We use the College Preparartory Math curriculum in our school. This book does a nice job of connecting algebra to arithmetic. For example, before students learn to graph lines and write equations for lines, students use their arithmetic skills to decipher tile patterns (how they grow, what the next pattern will look like, etc.). This is later translated into slope and y-intercept of a line. When students learn how to factor, the basis for factoring is presented as an arithmetic problem. I think introducing an alebra concept by rrelating to arithmetic is a good practice. If students feel confident in the arithmetic behind the concept, it may help to ease the anxiety of learning a new, and abstract, topic.

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