How Young is too Young for Algebra?


What do you think of when you hear the word algebra?

This word has been at the root of many disagreements in our home.  While I love algebra, my husband does not.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines algebra as follows:

al-ge-bra—n.—a generalization of arithmetic in which letters representing numbers are combined according to the rules of arithmetic

As I see it, algebra is simply solving for an unknown with a letter.  In its simplest form, 1+2=? is algebra.

The other day, “J” began what our virtual school calls “Using Addition to solve Subtraction”.  They basically take the fact families and leave the same number blank to show how they are all related.

9+__=14                    14-__=9

__+9=14                    14-9=__

As I was explaining this concept to “J”, I told him that he didn’t need to say “blank”.  Instead, he could pick a letter to say.  He chose the letter “z”, so we changed the number sentences.

9+ z=14                    14- z=9

z +9=14                    14-9= z

I reminded him that = means “is the same as” so if z is the same as 5, we can say z=5.  We then replace the z with the 5!

The next step will be to teach him how to solve for the variable by adding or subtracting from each side.

My husband just shakes his head at me, but doesn’t stop me from teaching our 1st grader in this fashion.

I believe it is important to introduce these concepts as early as a child is able to comprehend them.

I also believe in the importance of referring to these concepts using the correct terms.  Therefore, we call the letters variables and I explain that this form of math is called algebra.

At the tender age of 6, “J” is akin to a sponge.  His brain is capable of soaking up information much more readily now than later.

It thrills me to see him excited about his math lessons and learning in general.

How do you prepare your children for abstract concepts?

God Bless 🙂


I am a Christian, Virtual/Homeschooling mom of 3 who loves helping my children realize those AWESOME "lightbulb" moments!

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Posted in Math
4 comments on “How Young is too Young for Algebra?
  1. Christy, I homeschool my oldest and my two younger children will be homeschooled. I really like the concept of Algebra at a young age. I think it helps if they do start to understand sooner than later. What do you think about introducing math in general to a kindergarten age child?

    • I think as soon as a child has a concept of numbers you should incorporate “math” into every day. Math is as essential to every day living as reading. There is no correct age to begin any set subject, in my opinion.

      • letgoletgodletyou says:

        You are absolutely correct it’s never too early for lessons your son will need for a lifetime especially connected to math. I must admit there are many things in a school’s curriculum that we will go unused, being taught anything dealing with numbers is certainly not one of them. I thank you for being a mom that knows, understands as well embraces not only the idea of preparing your children for what’s ahead of them but for also being excited about doing so. Your enthusiasm is freely flowing into them connected to learning. Keep up the great work Mom 🙂

  2. Thank you so much for your kind words 🙂

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