The Development of Children's Algebraic Thinking: The Impact of a Comprehensive Early Algebra Intervention in Third Grade

This article reports results from a study investigating the impact of a sustained, comprehensive early algebra intervention in third grade. Participants included 106 students; 39 received the early algebra intervention, and 67 received their district's regularly planned mathematics instruction. We share and discuss students' responses to a written pre- and post-assessment that addressed their understanding of several big ideas in the area of early algebra, including mathematical equivalence and equations, generalizing arithmetic, and functional thinking. We found that the intervention group significantly outperformed the nonintervention group and was more apt by posttest to use algebraic strategies to solve problems. Given the multitude of studies among adolescents documenting students' difficulties with algebra and the serious consequences of these difficulties, an important contribution of this research is the finding that—provided the appropriate instruction—children are capable of engaging successfully with a broad and diverse set of big algebraic ideas.

Contributor Notes

Maria Blanton, TERC, 2067 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02140; Maria_Blanton@terc.edu

Ana Stephens, Wisconsin Center for Education Research, University of Wisconsin Madison, 1025 W. Johnson Street, Room 683, Madison, WI 53706; acstephens@wisc.edu

Eric Knuth, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Wisconsin Madison, Teacher Education Building 476c, 225 N. Mills Street, Madison, WI 53706; knuth@education.wisc.edu

Angela Murphy Gardiner, TERC, 2067 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02140; Angela_Gardiner@terc.edu

Isil Isler, Wisconsin Center for Education Research, University of Wisconsin Madison, 1025 W. Johnson Street, Room 690, Madison, WI 53706; isler@wisc.edu

Jee-Seon Kim, Department of Educational Psychology, University of Wisconsin Madison, 1025 W. Johnson Street, Room 1075e, Madison, WI 53706; jeeseonkim@wisc.edu

(Corresponding author is Blanton Maria_Blanton@terc.edu)(Corresponding author is Stephens acstephens@wisc.edu)(Corresponding author is Knuth knuth@education.wisc.edu)(Corresponding author is Gardiner Angela_Gardiner@terc.edu)(Corresponding author is Isler isler@wisc.edu)(Corresponding author is Kim jeeseonkim@wisc.edu)
Journal for Research in Mathematics Education

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