First Grade Algebra – by Cara

I may be dating myself, but I distinctly remember learning Algebra in the ninth grade. I had a VERY good but VERY strict woman teacher who explained the concepts so well, I think I received 100% on every test! And I don’t give myself the credit, because math is not my strong suit! This particular teacher was excellent! And I will never forget how wonderful she made me feel inside through being so successful in her class because she translated the concepts into such simple language! I had wished she taught every subject in high school!

Fast-forward 32 years later. I am sitting down with my already burnt out son, trying to figure out what in the world the teacher wants us to do with the algebraic equations on this piece of paper! And, of course, all of the problems are verbal, so not only do you have to understand what is written (which my son has problems with to begin with), but also you then have to take this verbal information and translate it into numeric equations! In first grade!!

Not only did I have to send my whining son away to take a break so that I could focus on the math problems at hand, I went into my husband’s office to show him this sheet of nonsense to see if HE could figure it out! And unlike me, he did NOT do well in algebra!!

So my question is, what is going on here? I’ve asked my son’s teacher why a first grader needs to know algebra and her response was that the fourth and fifth grade teachers are getting flack from administration because the children in these grades are not doing as well on the standardized tests. If math concepts are filtered down earlier through the grades, by fourth and fifth grade, children should be showing improvements on the standardized tests.

What all of this boils down to is rank order. School systems are becoming so competitive that first graders are now being pushed to do algebra so that by fifth grade these children do so well, that the school is ranked higher against other schools.

This is all beauracracy!! My son is made to believe that he is “dumb” because he can’t spit out algebraic equations on the tip of his tongue! He has to come home from a long day at school and practically cry because some school administrator feels it is necessary to “filter down” math to the lower grades so that they will later do better on standardized tests?? I would like to take my son, who has above average intelligence, I am told, and sit down with him to do this so-called “algebra” at the administrator’s home! I would like for the administrator to see how it demeans a child’s sense of accomplishment when they struggle to understand a concept that is way beyond his comprehension! Especially when they have had 40 minutes of homework that they’ve already done! I’d like this administrator to watch as my son starts to cry because he can’t take anymore of this unnecessary insanity and just puts down anything on the page, just to be done with it!! Then this administrator can tell me about the benefits of “filtering down” mathematic concepts to the lower grades!!

What did I end up doing with this homework? I sent in a nicely written note, asking the teacher to send home more specific instructions, so that the parents could assist their children with their homework. No algebra homework has come home since.

By the way, unless you are a teacher or mathematics/English major, could you explain to me just exactly what an “addend” or “dipthong” is?

  1. One Response to “First Grade Algebra – by Cara”

  2. My dear friend, I am a regular online tutor at

    Addend is a number to be added to another number.
    I think it should be ‘diphthong’ instead ‘dipthong’. It refers to two adjacent vowel sounds occurring within the same syllable. In most dialects of English, the words eye, boy, and cow contain examples of diphthongs.

    By Sharon on May 19, 2010