# Algebra for a concrete thinker

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Which is the best algebra 1 curriculum for a concrete thinker? Ds12 is just not an abstract thinker at all. And he struggles with math. He is not (at this point in time) headed into a mathy career field, but he will be going to a four year college, so I do want him to take algebra 1 in 8th grade.

TIA,

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It uses manipulatives (some) even at that level. I used it w/ my first--then moved away from MUS because I thought my wordy kids would like more words. But if you want straight-forward and concrete, it would fit the bill.

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Algebra is much more than balancing equations, but Hands-On Equations is a really wonderful concrete, tangible way to understand the idea. You get a mat with the picture of a balance scale on it -- like a see-saw. Accompanying booklets teach you how to set up equations with pawns representing unknown numbers (x's) and numbers, with dice. You then learn "legal moves," things you can do to keep both sides balanced and get all the x's on one side to solve.

Marilyn Burns's book Algebraic Thinking Grades 6-8 is also a wonderful resource that uses concrete situations to get kids involved in problem-solving. I highly recommend it.

Family Math for the Middle Grades has activities and games for kids and parents.

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Which is the best algebra 1 curriculum for a concrete thinker? Ds12 is just not an abstract thinker at all. And he struggles with math. He is not (at this point in time) headed into a mathy career field, but he will be going to a four year college, so I do want him to take algebra 1 in 8th grade.

TIA,

Jacobs' Elementary Algebra makes use of the rectangle model for such things as multiplying polynomials. He uses sketches, but you can purchase (or make your own!) set of Algebra Tiles, which allows the student to physically manipulate and construct the rectangles.

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We're just dabbling in it ourselves so I can't give too much detail, but have you looked at Kinetic Books?

There is a free trial download for Alg 1. It claims to be a complete curriculum, although I'm never confident with that in math.

If anything, it might make a great supplement to help your student visualize some of the concepts. There are some great games that demonstrate Alg concepts as well as text and quizzes.

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I'm a fan of Math Relief for getting a teacher on video who is absolutely gifted in explaining Algebra. I've used it with a concrete thinker & an abstract thinker. You can look at a sample video on their website.

Julie

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For our math struggler who is NOT at all an abstract thinker, Hands-On Equation was a helpful visual method of showing "what you do on one side of the equation you must do on the other, too, to keep it balanced". We used it when he was in 5th grade as a supplement.

Last year (9th gr.) he did Jacobs Algebra. I thought he would connect better with it than he did, since each lesson opens with a very tangible way that lesson's math topic is used in real life. Linear equations we finally skipped as he was having SO much trouble with the concepts/equations/graphing. He did the rest of the text okay, but I didn't really felt like he *understood* it -- that he was just going through the motions.

So this year (10th) we spent the first semester going through Math-U-See Algebra 1 to really nail down the concepts, and since he does pretty well with the visual/concrete concepts of geometry, we are doing all of Math-U-See Geometry this semester with no problem. MUS has a short video instruction for each lesson, often using very visual, tangible, concrete ways of explaining the abstract aspects of algebra. Very helpful.

No personal experience with Kinetic Math or Life of Fred, but have heard good results with both of those programs from others on this board.

BEST of luck in finding what works for your family! Warmly, Lori D.

Edited by Lori D.
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Thanks for all the great suggestions. I'm hoping I can preview most of these curriculums at our homeschool convention next month.

Edited by Mom2boys
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So this year (10th) we spent the first semester going through Math-U-See Algebra 1 to really nail down the concepts, and since he does pretty well with the visual/concrete concepts of geometry, we are doing all of Math-U-See Geometry this semester with no problem. MUS has a short video instruction for each lesson, often using very visual, tangible, concrete ways of explaining the abstract aspects of algebra. Very helpful.

Lori, did you use the manipulatives with MUS, or were the visuals on the videos enough for your concrete thinker?

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How about Hands on Equations? I'm not sure if that's enough by itself, or if you'd use it in conjunction with something else at the high school level.

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So, with Hands-On Equations, would I just need the "Learning System" for \$34.95, or the "Home Packet" for \$125?

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I only had the cheaper learning package and it was totally sufficient.

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I only had the cheaper learning package and it was totally sufficient.

Thanks. Hands on Equations is on our what to get this year!

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Lori, did you use the manipulatives with MUS, or were the visuals on the videos enough for your concrete thinker?

Just the visuals on the videos has been enough for DS. He *never* liked using the manipulatives, even when he first started MUS in grade 5; after grade 6 I stopped making him use them, as he demonstrated he understood the math without using the manipulatives. BEST of luck, whatever you go with! Warmly, Lori D.

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Just a thought:

12 is young for an 8th grader.

I think that some kids need a little bit more maturity before beginning Algebra. (Not that your son is immature, but just that many times a year or so can help them grasp some of the more abstract concepts.)

Many public high schools schedule pre-Algebra for 8th graders (mostly 13 yo) and Algebra 1 in 9th grade (mostly 14 yo).

In my jr. high/ high school, for example, it was only the mathiest of math kids who took Algebra 1 in 8th grade. Since your ds doesn't seem to be math-oriented, it may be pushing him a bit to expect Algebra 1 at age 12.

It wouldn't be unreasonable for your son to wait and take Algebra 1 in 9th grade. He would still be on track for college prep, and may likely have a more successful year of Algebra.

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Just a thought:

12 is young for an 8th grader.

I think that some kids need a little bit more maturity before beginning Algebra. (Not that your son is immature, but just that many times a year or so can help them grasp some of the more abstract concepts.)

Many public high schools schedule pre-Algebra for 8th graders (mostly 13 yo) and Algebra 1 in 9th grade (mostly 14 yo).

In my jr. high/ high school, for example, it was only the mathiest of math kids who took Algebra 1 in 8th grade. Since your ds doesn't seem to be math-oriented, it may be pushing him a bit to expect Algebra 1 at age 12.

It wouldn't be unreasonable for your son to wait and take Algebra 1 in 9th grade. He would still be on track for college prep, and may likely have a more successful year of Algebra.

This is a good point and one you should consider. However, since I've had 2 who have been ready for Algebra before age 12, this is what we do. They take Algebra 1 twice, which is something Jann in TX, one of the high school forum math gurus, highly recommends for any dc, even if they start Algebra 1 older. My eldest has already done this, and benefited greatly becuase she is able to understand the theory and thinking behind Algebra. My middle dd has recently started LoF Beginning Algebra and is doing TT Algebra 1 because we tried that with my eldest who hated it. My younger one likes the humour, but I use it as extra since I prefer my Algebra programs to be written by mathematicians.

For my ds, however, I'm planning to get Hands On Equations, since many times this is great for dc who are done all of their arithmetic & preAlgebra but aren't necessarily ready for Algebra developmentally. It gives a more concrete approach to it. I'd go for something like this, see how he does, and then you have the luxury of time of doing a different Algebra 1 afterward when he's 13 or 14, depending on when he's ready. My dc are mathy, but they still benefit. My eldest was at a 90 percent average the first time, which is a B in the US, so she wasn't bad at it, but after going through it again with a different, rigourous program, she really grasped it at an A level and, more importantly, she can think that way, write her own problems with things she sees in life, etc.

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This is a good point and one you should consider. However, since I've had 2 who have been ready for Algebra before age 12, this is what we do. They take Algebra 1 twice, which is something Jann in TX, one of the high school forum math gurus, highly recommends for any dc, even if they start Algebra 1 older.

You know, I've never heard this idea, but I like it. Especially for people like the OP's child, who she describes as not being terribly math-oriented. He could take Algebra 1 twice, and firmly cement concepts and understanding.

Thanks for sharing this!!

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Just a thought:

12 is young for an 8th grader.

Many public high schools schedule pre-Algebra for 8th graders (mostly 13 yo) and Algebra 1 in 9th grade (mostly 14 yo).

In my jr. high/ high school, for example, it was only the mathiest of math kids who took Algebra 1 in 8th grade. Since your ds doesn't seem to be math-oriented, it may be pushing him a bit to expect Algebra 1 at age 12.

It wouldn't be unreasonable for your son to wait and take Algebra 1 in 9th grade. He would still be on track for college prep, and may likely have a more successful year of Algebra.

I should have been more clear in my original post. My son will be 13 in May, and will start 8th grade in the fall, so he will be 13 when he studies algebra 1. In my junior high, anyone who was going to college took algebra 1 in 8th grade. That was the college prep math sequence. I think that is still common practice today, at least where I live, but I should probably ask around. Thanks for your post. :001_smile:

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They take Algebra 1 twice, which is something Jann in TX, one of the high school forum math gurus, highly recommends for any dc, even if they start Algebra 1 older.

I haven't heard this idea before, but I really like it. If ds is still struggling by the end of algebra 1, he can just take it again in 9th grade. Thanks!:thumbup:

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