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Instructional programs from prekindergarten through grade 12 should enable all students to--
  • understand patterns, relations, and functions;
  • represent and analyze mathematical situations and structures using algebraic symbols;
  • use mathematical models to represent and understand quantitative relationships;
  • analyze change in various contexts.

Algebra encompasses the relationships among quantities, the use of symbols, the modeling of phenomena, and the mathematical study of change.

The word algebra is not commonly heard in elementary school classrooms, but the mathematical investigations and conversations of students in these grades frequently include elements of algebraic reasoning. These experiences present rich contexts for advancing mathematical understanding and are an important precursor to the more formalized study of algebra in the middle and secondary grades. For example, when students in grades 3 through 5 investigate properties of whole numbers, they may find that they can multiply 18 by 14 mentally by computing 18 10 and adding it to 18 4, thus using the distributive property of multiplication over addition in a way that contributes to algebraic understanding.

As with number, these concepts of algebra are linked to all areas of mathematics. Much of algebra builds on students' extensive experiences with number. Algebra also is closely linked to geometry and to data analysis. The ideas of algebra are a major component of the school mathematics curriculum and help to unify it.

A strong foundation in algebra should be in place by the end of eighth grade, and ambitious goals in algebra should be pursued by all high school students.

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