Instructional Strategies for Teaching Algebra in Elementary School: Findings from a Research-Practice Collaboration

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  • 1 University of California—Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720
  • 2 Teacher in the Boston Public Schools

Incorporating algebra into the elementary grades has become a focus for teachers, principals, and administrators around the country. Algebra is commonly regarded as a gateway to future opportunity (e.g., Moses and Cobb 2001), and elementary mathematics standards at both the state and national levels now reflect this effort to provide students with opportunities to learn critical concepts before middle and high school (California Department of Education 1997; NCTM 2000). However, implementing algebra standards at the elementary level is challenging—how do mathematics educators effectively and meaningfully incorporate algebraic ideas into K–5 curriculum? When elementary teachers are unfamiliar with early algebra, lessons designed and labeled as algebraic may become arithmetic exercises; the algebra then remains hidden from both the teacher and students in the implementation. The result is that the algebra standard is only superficially addressed.


Darrell Earnest is interested in the development and support of mathematical reasoning in elementary and middle school.

Aadina A. Balti holds master's degrees in child development from Tufts University and in special education from the University of Massachusettes—Boston, and is particularly interested in supporting students in special education.

Teaching Children Mathematics


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