What’s the point of algebra, anyway?

If you’re interested in exploring this question, there’s a book that can help: Family Math: the Middle School Years, Algebraic Reasoning and Number Sense. Two of the games I’ve found to be most popular with 9-14 year-olds happen to come from this book, but it’s the approach to algebra that makes it really stand out. I was never introduced to algebra until 9th grade, at which point I learned a series of rules and procedures. An approach like that can work  for those who happen to like learning math for its own sake, but I know a lot of young people who don’t. The algebra activities in this book offer a conceptual basis for the x’s and y’s of algebra that you can introduce to younger children.  When it’s time to attempt a more formal algebra program later on, they’ll have some idea as to what it’s all about. Using real-life situations (like a brother and sister taking stock of their music collections), the book offers ways to get why anyone would ever need algebra.

This book is not the kind of thing you can hand to a young person and send him or her off to use for independently learning. The activities require active engagement on the part of multiple parties. (For more independence-friendly algebra, I recommend Key to Algebra or Elementary Algebra.) I don’t recommend it for families who have a lot of strife swirling around their math lives. This is a book for supplementing whatever else you’re doing with math, and getting kids ready for algebra and more involved mathematical thinking.

Family Math: the Middle School Years… is available new or used at amazon…