The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics promotes access to algebra for all students in Pre-K-12th grade (NCTM, 2014). As noted by Flores (2009), “Providing students with greater access to algebra provides students with disabilities the tools to complete high school exit exams and so obtain a high school diploma, as well as advance to higher levels of education” (p. 196).
Virginia’s Guidelines for Educating Students with Specific Learning Disabilities highlights an effective strategy for teaching abstract algebraic concepts known as the concrete- representational-abstract (C-R-A) approach. In a research study (Witzel, 2005) found that students who were taught to solve algebraic equations using manipulatives and representations outperformed peers and scored higher on post-assessments (despite scoring significantly lower on pre-assessments) than those who received instruction only at the abstract level. Witzel (2005) further notes that while the C-R-A approach may be thought of as remedial, all students benefit including high math achievers.
The following resources can be used to implement the C-R-A approach and to help all students develop an understanding of algebra concepts.
Working with Algebra Tiles: An interactive power point presentation that demonstrates how to create Algebra Tiles and utilize them for a variety of algebraic units.
Manipulative Mathematics Teacher Videos: A series of recorded videos that demonstrate how teachers can use various manipulatives in algebra lessons.
Algebra Readiness Curriculum Companion: A set of lessons for grades 5-8 that are aligned with the Algebra Readiness Initiative. The lessons are designed to be used for strengthening the math background of students so that they can be successful in Algebra I.
Flores, M. M. (2010). Using the concrete-representational-abstract sequence to teach subtraction with regrouping to students at risk for failure. Remedial and Special Education, V31 N3 195-207.
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (2014). Algebra as a strand of school mathematics for all students: A position of the national council of teachers of mathematics. Reston, Va.: NCTM
Virginia Department of Education. (2014). Virginia’s guidelines for educating students with specific learning disabilities. Richmond: VA: VDOE.
Witzel, B. S. (2005). Using CRA to teach algebra to students with math difficulties in inclusive settings. Learning Disabilities: A Contemporary Journal, 3(2) 49-60.