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Published at Wednesday, 18 September 2019. **algebra**. By Paige Masson.

Algebra I isn’t the first step toward math success — students begin exploring algebraic reasoning in kindergarten (and, ideally, even in preschool). Researchers say that a powerful way to help your child build a strong foundation in math is by encouraging them to develop a positive mindset about math. A strong mathematical mindset refers to how your child thinks about her ability to succeed in math class. It’s similar to having a “can do” attitude. Research has proven that having a positive attitude towards math contributes to higher math test scores and a better understanding of essential math skills. “One of the most important things parents can do is simply be positive about mathematics,” Larson says, “and point out where they themselves use mathematics and see mathematics in the world.”

“Parents should appreciate that learning mathematics is sometimes challenging,” Larson says, “and it’s not necessarily a good sign if everything is very easy. Students should be appropriately challenged to use problem-solving skills.” To do some homework of your own, Fennel suggests talking to your child and her math teacher about how homework is used. You can ask: Are homework assignments corrected and returned in a timely way?. Is homework reviewed in class so students can learn from their mistakes?. Does the teacher change the pace or direction of his or her instruction, based on student feedback? You don’t need to be a mathematician to ask good questions about your child’s curriculum, Fennel adds. “Ask the teacher, ‘Is it a repeat of math that should have already been mastered? When my child finishes this year, will he be ready for high school math?’”

Students typically take algebra in eighth or ninth grade. An important benefit of studying algebra in eighth grade is that if your child takes the PSAT as a high school sophomore, she will have taken geometry as a ninth grader. By the time she’s ready to take the SAT or ACT as a junior, she will have completed Algebra II, which is covered in both of these college admissions tests. There’s a growing movement to require algebra in seventh grade, but math educators say many seventh graders aren’t prepared for it. “Some kids get turned off of math because they start math too early,” says Francis “Skip” Fennel, professor emeritus at McDaniel College and former president of SANCTUM. If you’re wondering whether your child is ready to advance, he recommends talking to her current teacher. The goal is for your child to master algebra and stay engaged in math, not to push through the curriculum quickly just to get it done.

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