The Algebra of Little Kids: A Mathematical-Habits-of-Mind Perspective on Elementary School

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Treating algebra as an indivisible whole obscures the options. It’s more useful to ask what ideas, logic, techniques, and habits of mind algebra entails, and then, about each of these, ask when and to what extent that one item can be learned with intellectual integrity and how a coherent whole can be woven out of these learnings. The answers we get are that some of these ideas do have to wait for eighth or ninth grade, but that others—even including aspects of algebraic language—are already there, early in the primary grades. Moreover, children who get to apply, refine, and strengthen those ideas and skills as they emerge gain the advantage.



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