Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Why Children Should Be Taught Algebra Before Arithmetic

'Algebra before arithmetic', you are probably thinking, "Is this guy nuts!"

I imagine many of you reading this still have nightmares as you recall  trying to understand what those strange hieroglyphics called equations your teacher scrawled on the black/white board were all about. Now this guy wants our children to learn it while they are young!

The approach outlined in these blog posts deliberately introduces children to algebra before arithmetic.


Because it really is easier for children to understand maths concepts when they have something concrete to refer to. This is because number itself is an abstract concept and difficult for young children to grasp.

For example, if I asked you to, "Fetch me five," you would probably reply, "Five what?"

That is why when early years teachers introduce number it is always in relation to some thing. 'Four ducks', 'three kittens' and so on. Yet freed from the constraint of wrestling with the abstract concept of number children can actually gain an understanding of maths concepts normally considered 'too advanced' for their years.

It is easier for children to learn basic math concepts via algebra before being Introduced to number. The rods provide a concrete base that children are more than comfortable with. Colour is the key. Initially the children are introduced to the colour names of the rods and this is a perfectly obvious and natural process.

When number is eventually introduced for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, children will have no problem because the concepts are already familiar to them. The software has been created to help facilitate the transition from colour to number. (Please note that it will not be freely available indefinitely).

Young children can be introduced to the vocabulary they will need over a short period of time. Older children will grasp it very quickly. Young children are also quick to understand that 'o' represents orange.

                                Letter Names                       Colour Names

They will eventually read and write ‘sentences’ or equations they have made and can visualise in their head.
     t + r = o

   Later they will have no problem exchanging ‘number names’ for ‘letter names’.
         8 + 2 = 10

Visualizing or mental imaging is just one of the abilities the brain possesses and needs to be encouraged and developed. This is something we shall consider in a future post.

Take a look at Unit 4 of the Child's Play Maths Video Tutorials for more information.

Our next post will focus on introducing important words and phrases that children will need to know before moving on.

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