# Need Algebra/Pre-Algebra Recommendations...

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I have a gifted 9 year old who just loves math (but is starting to lose his love for it b/c he hasn't had a challenge for a long time). He flew through Saxon 7/6 last year (by Mid-march I started giving him the chapter tests instead of the lessons and he was getting 90-100% on them without even doing the material). I then reviewed with him the concepts that he was unclear on. I decided not to go on to Saxon 8/7 mostly b/c he begged me not to bore him again with it.

I would like to do with him Jacob's Algebra at some point, but was wondering if he will need a Pre-Algebra course first? Though he has mastery of "elementary math" I worry that he could be developmentally too young as a 4th grader to start Algebra? He is begging me for a challenge... for something interesting. What do you all suggest?

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I have had a 5th grader complete MUS's algebra and geometry combo book. They still have some available it looks like. https://www.mathusee.com/clearance/index.php?cPath=35 (I used both the student bk and the extra practice sheets). That is what I used b/c it was what they were publishing with my oldest. You could simply go with their alg book.

It was a concrete introduction to algebra (I used it as pre-alg and pre-geo) and my ds has had no problems progressing through algebra and geometry in traditional high school texts even though he is still quite young.

I would also suggest looking at this website: http://www.artofproblemsolving.com/Books/AoPS_B_CP_MOEMS.php These are challenging problems that require mental math. My ds loves this stuff. He is doing the Art of Problem Solving for fun this summer. (I wouldn't recommend them for you ds yet though b/c algebraic concepts are presumed base knowlegde for parts of it.) But the Math Counts problems, the Math Olympiad stuff would be perfect. I am curious about their Introduction to Algebra book, but I have never seen it so I can't tell you what is in it. My ds is beyond that point so I didn't pursue it.

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
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We started Jacobs Algebra when my son had just turned 10. The first 6 or so chapters are what is normally covered in prealgebra. We did the first half of the book at half speed that year (8 chapters). My son was fine with the concepts (and got 90+% on the tests) but had major issues writing out his work as well as with any sort of independence while doing the problem sets. So after a bit of flailing that next year, he redid the first half of the book and went on to the second half, the entire time working at a normal pace and doing the problem sets independently. He did very very well with Jacobs.

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How is your child at writing down work? I did algebra at that age, but my mother/my outside teacher had to put in a lot of extra work making me redo the assignments until I did them correctly and showed work. It was good for me ... but it took most of the year before I'd finally figured out that it was easier to do it the first time than to do a quick job because "I know this already, mom! I don't need to write down my work!" This would be the developmental part I'd worry about.

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I have a used 1996 version that I got for fairly cheap. I'm using it for my 7th grader this fall. I like that it introduces a lot of the simpler algebraic concepts (negative numbers, solving for a variable), but doesn't get into the more difficult, abstract concepts present in a standard algebra I course.

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My dd hated math, so wasn't ready for Algebra until she was 11. She found Jacob's extremely boring (opinion, of course). I second the recommendation for Dolciani pre-Algebra. She really likes (but won't actually admit it in those exact words) the 1965 Dolciani Algebra 1 (Structure and Method). Another idea, which I've just ordered for my now 11 yo who claims she doesn't like math but will be ready for Algebra by fall, is Life of Fred. She loves the idea of reading the story and that it's about a boy (she's going through a tomboy stage, although her goal in life is to get married and have lots of babies--I'm suggesting college first).

In our house, though, they do Algebra 1 twice even if they have a good average to get the theory down better. Gelfand's is great for that, but the problems are very long and some of them are very hard.

Another idea is to do Russian Math from Perpendicular Press or Mathematical Circles. Those are challenging even if they're not Algebra. Although the one from Perpendicular Press says sixth grade, it is harder than SM 6 according to dd, who did SM 6 already; not all of it, some is review, but some of it. Definitely harder than Saxon 76 (my eldest did Saxon, but my younger 2 did SM & MUS--well, one is still doing that.) My 11 yo is doing Russian Math instead of pre-Algebra, because between that & SM 6 she'll have all the pre-Algebraic skills she'll need.

Edited by Karin
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How is your child at writing down work? I did algebra at that age, but my mother/my outside teacher had to put in a lot of extra work making me redo the assignments until I did them correctly and showed work. It was good for me ... but it took most of the year before I'd finally figured out that it was easier to do it the first time than to do a quick job because "I know this already, mom! I don't need to write down my work!" This would be the developmental part I'd worry about.

I've been pretty hard on him for a couple of years now to show his work, and though he dislikes it, he is pretty good about writing it down now. He likes to do it in his head first and then write it down after :lol:.

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I would also suggest looking at this website: http://www.artofproblemsolving.com/Books/AoPS_B_CP_MOEMS.php These are challenging problems that require mental math. My ds loves this stuff. He is doing the Art of Problem Solving for fun this summer. (I wouldn't recommend them for you ds yet though b/c algebraic concepts are presumed base knowlegde for parts of it.) But the Math Counts problems, the Math Olympiad stuff would be perfect. I am curious about their Introduction to Algebra book, but I have never seen it so I can't tell you what is in it. My ds is beyond that point so I didn't pursue it.

The Art of Problem Solving books look like something that he would really enjoy... and it seems as though he probably needs to get a little bit of algebra down before tackling any other math... am I right? Would you suggest that we do something like Dolciani's Pre-alg first or just do Jacobs Algebra before doing AoPS? How do the AoPS books work? Are they all stand alone, or do they need to be done in a particular order? Would they be considered a full-year curriculum?

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We started Jacobs Algebra when my son had just turned 10. The first 6 or so chapters are what is normally covered in prealgebra.

Would he be missing anything if he started Jacobs without a pre-alg course first or should he do that first?

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I don't think you can go based on age to figure readiness for algebra. However, you may well hit a wall which is pretty common at this juncture regardless of the age of the student.

Here are the two ways we did it.

Dd was only 7 when she started using Dolciani Algebra. I'm not sure your kid would find it or the pre-algebra FUN, but possibly challenging.

My ds did Lial's pre-algebra in 5th, skipped 6th officially due to virtual academy requirements, then used Dolciani pre-algebra in 7th and algebra in 8th. We then moved to Systematic Mathematics in Spring of 8th grade year.

Anyway, you could use a solid pre-algebra program and maybe do something like Hands On Algebra for algebra concepts ahead of time (this is appropriate for his age rather than level).

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I second the recommendation for Dolciani pre-Algebra.

What version is recommended? I saw a newer version with the tag line "An Accelerated Course"

http://www.amazon.com/Pre-Algebra-Accelerated-Mary-P-Dolciani/dp/0395591236

Does this edition move more quickly through material than the older editions?

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The Art of Problem Solving books look like something that he would really enjoy... and it seems as though he probably needs to get a little bit of algebra down before tackling any other math... am I right? Would you suggest that we do something like Dolciani's Pre-alg first or just do Jacobs Algebra before doing AoPS? How do the AoPS books work? Are they all stand alone, or do they need to be done in a particular order? Would they be considered a full-year curriculum?

I think you need to evaluate your objectives for your child and his abilities vs. his ability to think abstractly vs. concretely.

I have had 2 kids that are extremely good at math. My oldest is simply really good at math. My 13 yr thinks "mathematically." That is a large distinction. My oldest learned a concept and could apply it. He could do math. My 13 yos looks at the world and turns things into math. For example, during the summer between 1st and 2nd grade he taught himself multiplication. How? He didn't even realize he was doing it. He would look at window panes, cookies on a pan, toys on the floor, patterns, etc and say things like "Mommy, did you know that 4 rows of 5 is 20?" He never had to be taught multiplication. He "discovered" it on his own.

The reason I wanted to point out those distinctions is b/c my oldest mastered arithematic early, but he wasn't really ready for algebra until 7th grade. My younger ds was definitely there at 10.

A lot of people talk about kids hitting a wall with upper level maths b/c it is abstract. My younger ds already "thinks" mathematically (turning everything into equations). He has not had any difficulties with either alg 1 or geometry. I know he understands the concepts "uniquely" b/c when he helps his older sister (who has a harder time doing the same math), he explains things that in no way resemble the manner in which it has been explained to him and is often a much better explanation than he has been given!

The reason I have chosen MUS's alg for my kids to do prior to a standard high school text is b/c it is a very visual/concrete approach to an abstract math. It has very few math problems per page and isn't overwhelming with info on the page like a high school textbook making it young child friendly.

I follow that with another yr of algebra b/c algebra is the basis of all higher math and absolutely NOT something to be rushed through. (and I do not believe that MUS does an adequate job overall. It is a great introduction to the concept of algebra, but does not require the level of comprehension/application that Foerster (my text preference) requires.

Even with my 13 yos......I'm just not sure what I am going to do with him long term. He will finish pre-cal in 9th grade (that is the highest level of math I am willing to do at home). Our CC only teaches through cal 1. The local universities do not have dual enrollment policies, only CCs. I am going to have to go to one of the universities and beg the dean of math to let him take classes. If they will not admit him......I'm not sure what we are going to do.

As far as AoPS......no, I do not see them as a yrs curriculum. They are "fun" side books. They are challenging mental math problems. Like I said earlier, my ds does them for fun.

The Math Counts books would be great for your ds b/c they are also challenging mental math problems. My ds has had a lot of fun playing around with them too and they don't really require the same level of math.

I saw on their website that they had a simple placement test for their algebra book. You might want to consider having your ds take that test and see how he does. It might help you decide where you want to go with him. They have sample pgs on their website, so you could see how the info is presented and decide what you think.

HTH

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I think you need to evaluate your objectives for your child and his abilities vs. his ability to think abstractly vs. concretely.

I have had 2 kids that are extremely good at math. My oldest is simply really good at math. My 13 yr thinks "mathematically." That is a large distinction. My oldest learned a concept and could apply it. He could do math. My 13 yos looks at the world and turns things into math. For example, during the summer between 1st and 2nd grade he taught himself multiplication. How? He didn't even realize he was doing it. He would look at window panes, cookies on a pan, toys on the floor, patterns, etc and say things like "Mommy, did you know that 4 rows of 5 is 20?" He never had to be taught multiplication. He "discovered" it on his own.

The reason I wanted to point out those distinctions is b/c my oldest mastered arithematic early, but he wasn't really ready for algebra until 7th grade. My younger ds was definitely there at 10.

he explains things that in no way resemble the manner in which it has been explained to him and is often a much better explanation than he has been given!

This sounds very much like my son... he "figured out" multiplication in Kindergarten (along with exponents though he didn't know it by technical terms) and is constantly showing me alternate ways of coming to correct answers using his own logic and mental understanding. He is utterly bored with drilling, and knows concepts for good with one explanation (if that). He isn't at all interested in hands-on and prefers to think abstractly and work through books.

Edited by babysparkler
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I follow that with another yr of algebra b/c algebra is the basis of all higher math and absolutely NOT something to be rushed through. (and I do not believe that MUS does an adequate job overall. It is a great introduction to the concept of algebra, but does not require the level of comprehension/application that Foerster (my text preference) requires.

That is a great idea.

As far as AoPS......no, I do not see them as a yrs curriculum. They are "fun" side books. They are challenging mental math problems. Like I said earlier, my ds does them for fun.

The Math Counts books would be great for your ds b/c they are also challenging mental math problems. My ds has had a lot of fun playing around with them too and they don't really require the same level of math.

I saw on their website that they had a simple placement test for their algebra book. You might want to consider having your ds take that test and see how he does. It might help you decide where you want to go with him. They have sample pgs on their website, so you could see how the info is presented and decide what you think.

HTH

That is very helpful! Thank you!

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What version is recommended? I saw a newer version with the tag line "An Accelerated Course"

http://www.amazon.com/Pre-Algebra-Accelerated-Mary-P-Dolciani/dp/0395591236

Does this edition move more quickly through material than the older editions?

The very best years for Dolciani are 1965-1975, which means you need to buy a used copy. I've bought them on-line and found one free at a book sale recently (Dolciani Structure and Method Algebra & Trigonometry). In order to really do Algebra well and get the thinking, you don't necessarily want one that moves more quickly. If you do, you might try Life of Fred. I only have dd do half the problems in Algebra unless she has difficulty (not very often) with something. However, at 9, you may not be looking for proofy Algebra or theory (like the Gelfand's does such a beautiful job with, but most dc ought to wait until 13 for that due to the LONG problems that come up in as you move along.)

The later ones are not all written by her, and are not nearly as good. I didn't just read this on WTM. We have a friend who teaches ps who has several older Algebra books on his shelf at home, including Dolciani, because he says there aren't any good new ones (I realize not everyone will agree with that, but he's never seen NEM or really looked at Gelfand's).

Edited by Karin
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My ds was absolutely sick of Saxon when we were about 3/4 of the way through 7/6. We switched to Chalkdust Pre-Algebra which he did at age 9. I had him take the placement test. Since your son is farther along, he might place into Algebra, but I think the Pre-Algebra text with Chalkdust is VERY worthwhile. It has MANY word problems which use REAL-LIFE applications. It was a bit of a struggle for my son to transition from an incremental approach to a mastery approach, but we switched at the right time.

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How do the early Dolciani books differ from the newer ones?

Thanks!

Capt_Uhura

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I honestly don't think a prealgebra course is necessary before Jacobs unless a child needs to consolidate arithmetic skills.

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For prealgebra I think you can't beat BJUP for completeness.

Grace

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For younger children, I know a lot of folks who really like Life of Fred. I haven't used it yet, so can't speak to it. However, I'm using a book by Frank Zaccarro right now that's called Real World Algebra. It's a great intro to algebraic thought for younger kids, I think!

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I honestly don't think a prealgebra course is necessary before Jacobs unless a child needs to consolidate arithmetic skills.

Thank you... my husband and I have looked through the Jacob's book and think that it is very much what our son can handle, esp. since the first few chapters are more like a pre-algebra curriculum to break him in, so we plan to start him in that next year and go at a reasonable pace, maybe taking a year or two to get through it with supplementation on areas of difficulty that may arise. Then we are considering the Art of Problem Solving Intro books (Number Theory and Counting & Probability) as an extension before moving into Geometry. How does this sound?

Edited by babysparkler
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Video Text Algebra is pre alg, alg 1, and alg 2 in one course blended together - we're using it for my 6th grader (wish I discovered it before he took pre alg this year). It moves quickly along but starts with basic concepts of math language. No time spent on review for alg 2 because alg 2 blends in with alg 1 so it doesn't take as long as standard courses (2 yrs instead of 3 yrs) ... most schools take a year break between 1 and 2 for geometry. This course was rec'd to me by a mom of a 10 yo math genius (who already had completed it).

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It sounds good to me. The AoPS books are fabulous!

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After 1975, it's my understanding that they started taking out some of the more challenging problems to make room for computer programming using BASIC language. And then, apparently, from the late eighties on, they revised them further, but I'm not sure I remember just how.

I used the 1981 versions in high school, so that's what I'm buying. Nostalgia certainly plays into this. I enjoy seeing the pictures of the early eighties teens at their Radio Shack Tandy computers. :) When I first started reading about Dolciani math books, I really didn't understand all the fuss. Then, when I got my hands on them and compared them, I understood. Teaching the axiom and then proving it was how my math teacher taught algebra, and I guess I assumed all books approach it that way. I was not a math major or a star math student, but I did notice in college that I had a better grasp on how algebra "worked" than many of my friends, and I think my excellent math teacher coupled with the approach taken in those old Dolciani texts is the reason.

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Staci - thanks for your insight! It seems Singapore Math is going the way of Dolciani ie taking out the more challenging problems.

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Staci - thanks for your insight! It seems Singapore Math is going the way of Dolciani ie taking out the more challenging problems.

The publishers of Singapore Math, which is really called Primary Mathematics, NEM, etc, don't print the Challenging Word Problems themselves. They're not happy with the changes being made. I haven't seen the IP and they also may be challenging. The word problems in SM are still better than most math curricula out there.

If you want some challenging problems you could look to Russian Math, or MEP. Here are some links:

http://www.cimt.plymouth.ac.uk/projects/mep/default.htm

http://www.perpendicularpress.com

There is also Mathematical Circles.

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How do the early Dolciani books differ from the newer ones?

Thanks!

Capt_Uhura

You've heard some of it, but there is more. The language of the texts changed, not for the better. Also, from 1965-1975 Dolciani stayed true to New Math. New Math well done was fabulous, and this is when the US produced a higher percentage of its own mathematicians, etc. You may wish to check some of the Dolciani and Algebra tags as there have been some much more in depth conversations on Dolciani before. All I can say is that we've been very pleased with it, and that dd prefers the 1965 over the 1975 because of how it's written, etc (but that preference is hers--both are good in their own right.)

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