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.