Elementary or first-year algebra is the keystone subject in all of secondary mathematics. It is formally studied by students from grade levels as early as seventh grade and as late as college, but begun and completed more often in ninth grade than at any other time. The main purpose of this article is to question that timing. The conclusion to be argued here is that most students should begin the study of algebra one year earlier than they now do. This conclusion is contrary to a recommendation currently subscribed to by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and to the views of a number of leaders in mathematics education. I attempt to show here that these leaders have been misguided.