Teaching algebraic thinking without the x’s

Students need not wait till they meet Mr. x to learn about algebra. In fact, the best way to learn about algebra is to learn it while there aren’t x’s yet; when all the learners need to deal with are concepts that still make sense to them. Here is a list of tips and ways for developing algebraic thinking while learning about numbers and number operations.

1. Vary the “orientations” of the way you write number sentences.

For example, 5 + 20 = 25 can be written as 25 = 5 + 20. The first expression is about ‘doing math’, the second engages students about ‘thinking about the math’, the different representations of the number 25. The thinking involved in the second one is ‘algebraic’.

2. Be mindful of the meaning of equal sign

If you want to ask your learners to find, for example, the sum of 15 plus 6, do not write 15 + 6 =___. It’s a recipe for misconception of the meaning of equal sign. I recommend: What numbers is the same as (or equal to) 15 + 6? Better, What number phrases are the same as (or equal to) 15 + 6? This last one promotes algebraic thinking.

3. Encourage learners to generalize. Read more of this post

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