Algebra: a survival guide

AlgebraDr. S N Gananath

“As long as algebra is taught in school, there will be prayer in school.”
– Cokie Roberts

Transition from arithmetic (that deals with numbers) to algebra (that deals with letters) is perhaps one of the three most traumatic experiences in maths classes for a typical child.

Why should it be so? How can we address this problem? Can we make the learning of algebra meaningful and enjoyable? Let us examine.

Pre-algebra learning consists predominantly of numbers and number operations. Whereas numbers are generalized form of quantities, algebraic variables represent generalization of numbers and this concept is not easy to grasp for most children and they need help. Algebra deals with patterns and unless children are exposed to and have developed the skill of recognizing patterns during the pre-algebra phase, they find algebra somewhat baffling.

The author works with Suvidya, an educational resource group, in Mysore. He can be reached at

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