For Parents, Teachers, and Caregivers: Tips and Resources for Helping a Child Master Pre-Algebra
The mere mention of pre-algebra is enough to intimidate children. However, like many subjects, pre-algebra provides a foundation for later courses such as algebra and calculus. Parents, teachers, and caregivers strive to make learning fun for students, but to begin, a student must have the right mindset. Make students understand the need for algebra and help them (and yourself) get familiar with tips and resources.
Make Them Aware Why We Need Algebra
As an adult, you come to understand the practical importance of math. It applies to knowing what’s a better deal at a grocery store or how to landscape a backyard. However, the need and ‘big picture’ may not be immediately apparent to students. Make them understand the ‘why’ of pre-algebra.
It helps to relate the reason in terms a young student can understand. For example, every student is familiar with the Internet, especially the Google search engine. Ask them how they think Google knows what information to supply based on a user’s query. Google’s algorithm uses algebra to store information and supply it when it’s needed and most optimal. Similarly, every child is familiar with television. A television camera captures sight and sound and sends it through cables to individual television sets. It’s accomplished through algebra and trigonometry! It may not be immediately apparent, but algebra is everywhere, and better understanding its principles opens doors of discovery and opportunity.
For most subjects, learning is cumulative. What your child learns in the earlier grades will serve as a foundation for future studies. For this reason, it is important that your child masters the basic concepts of mathematics before they move on to pre-algebra. Most algebraic lessons involve abstract thinking, which can take plenty of time and practice to learn. Parents and teachers must ensure all students grasp each mathematical topic in order to create the important building blocks they'll need later for algebra.
Of course, learners are different, and some concepts come more easily than others. The Iowa Algebra Aptitude Test helps assess what areas a child’s teacher needs to go over more thoroughly and other areas that are more easily understood by students destined for pre-algebra class.
What Pre-Algebra Covers
A child will learn the following throughout a pre-algebra course:
- Natural number arithmetic
- Integers, fractions, decimals, and negative numbers
- Factorization of natural numbers
- Associative, distributive, and other operation properties
- Roots and powers of integers
- Operator precedence (FOIL) and how to address parentheses
- How to do simple equations (invariant manipulation of equations)
- Variables and exponentiation
Khan Academy PreAlgebra teaches the subject through a series of videos. Students watch videos to learn basic concepts. Individual videos address order of operations, exponents, dividing fractions, and more.
Monkey Party Learn Algebra is an entertaining way to learn pre-algebra. Kids will learn to balance equations, combining like terms, using negative numbers, and more. The app provides clear directions and offers 18 teaching levels.
Virtual Nerd Mobile Math teaches students in an easy-to-understand format. However, it’s especially useful for parents and caregivers who want to help. The videos are clear, concise, and provide step-by-step processes.
Georgia Burgess is a teacher who enjoys keeping up with the latest teaching research and techniques. She also enjoys seeing kids succeed and occasionally writes articles for teaching and parenting blogs.