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A Foundation for Algebraic Reasoning in the Early Grades

For many adults, algebra means solving systems of equations; finding the value of an unknown; using the quadratic formula; or otherwise working within a system of formulas, equations, and literal symbols. From this perspective, the suggestion that algebra should permeate the K – 12 mathematics curriculum seems unreasonable and certainly indefensible if we take seriously that children should learn mathematics by making sense of things on the basis of their current mathematical understandings. Do we expect children in kindergarten and first grade to solve algebraic equations? If not, then what might it mean to suggest that algebraic thinking should be part of the mathematics curriculum for the elementary grades?

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