This 4-week curriculum unit we have developed is one that can be used to introduce algebraic concepts at any grade level.
It draws upon algebraic research showing that it is more helpful for students to learn algebra through studying pattern growth where a variable represents a case number, and can vary, before learning about “solving for x.” When students start learning algebra by solving for x they come to believe that a variable stands for a single number and does not vary. Later when they need to understand that variables can vary, they meet a conceptual barrier, and many do not ever get past that barrier. We recommend that students learn first about pattern growth and see that algebra can be useful for describing growth. Later, when they encounter situations when the variable stands for one missing number, they see this as a subset of their broader learning about variables and there is no confusion.