Is Your Child Ready for Algebra?

Is your child ready for Algebra? It will likely be your child’s first real step into more advanced math. This can be a frustrating transition for students who do not adequately understand pre-algebra concepts. Luckily, there are several ways to determine whether your child is fully prepared for a venture into algebra.

For students and parents alike, math in general can be overwhelming, much less algebra. Many parents struggled with math as students, and it may be difficult to continue helping your children as they progress through math classes. Your child will move from integers and one-step equations to linear inequalities and factoring polynomials


Consider a math placement test to determine algebra readiness

If you believe your student may be ready to progress to Algebra, consider providing him or her with a placement test. You can find a multitude of testing options (many for free) online. Providing your child with an Algebra diagnostic exam or pre-test can offer a little insight into your child’s current math abilities.

You may also request formal placement testing through the school’s guidance office.

Your child may initially feel uncomfortable taking any kind of test, but assure him or her that it is necessary to advance to the next level of study.  According to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), some indicators of algebra readiness include:

  1. The ability to use properties such as commutativity, associativity, and distributivity. E.g., knowing that 5 + 9 is equal to 9 + 5 (commutativity)
  2. Understanding the concept of using symbols (oftentimes letters) to represent unknown quantities  E.g., letting x represent the number of apples in a basket.
  3. The ability to express mathematical relationships using equations. E.g, writing 2x = 8.

Talk with your child about algebra

Your child can offer the best perspective when it comes to his or her preparedness for a new challenge. Sit down with your child and have an honest conversation about whether or not he or she would like to precede to Algebra. If your student is unsure, you may again bring up the option of taking a placement test.

You might also talk to your child’s current math teacher or even a school academic counselor – people trained to evaluate your student’s readiness for the next math class.

Let your child know that there are options available if he or she decides to progress. You can arrange a peer study group, seek an algebra tutor, or simply practice newly learned math skills beyond the classroom. A mixture of supportive resources and consistent practice can help your student be successful in the classroom.

Do some algebraic prep work

If you feel that your child is ready for Algebra but needs a refresher, you can encourage him or her to practice algebra at home. Work through sample problems, watch step-by-step tutorials on YouTube, and review more fundamental concepts as you go.


Ask your child’s Algebra teacher for a syllabus

If your child is feeling hesitant about an upcoming Algebra class, it may be a good idea to talk with his or her teacher. Often, teachers have their syllabi prepared well in advance of class. If you ask, your child’s Algebra teacher may provide the syllabus to you earlier than the class’ start date.

A syllabus can contain a lot of valuable information, including the course timeline, learning objectives, and testing policies. This can help you evaluate readiness and even prepare for at-home review that reinforces concepts learned in class.  Below is an adapted sample standards syllabus for grades 6 - 8, as it pertains to algebraic knowledge:

Algebraic Standards Grades 6 - 8 specific examples


Understand patterns and relations

E.g., Identify patterns when given a data in a table or graph


Represent mathematical statements using algebraic symbols

E.g., know what y = ax + b means in terms of graphing a line


Use math models to represent and understand quantiative relationships

E.g., given an equation of a line, plot some points on a graph


Analyze change

E.g., given plots on a graph, explain how changes in the independent variable affect the output (dependent variable)


Is Algebra the next step?

Finally, your child may not have much choice when it comes to taking an Algebra class.  Ultimately, it may be up to the teacher or school to determine whether or not your child is ready to take a more advanced math class. In this case, it is important that you do everything you can to prepare your child. Empower him or her to succeed by providing encouragement and academic support.

Alternatively, you and your child may wish to explore alternatives to Algebra. Depending on the particular school and your child’s grade level, there may be classes offered that are more suitable to his or her skills. The best thing you can do as a parent is offer encouragement and support, no matter the class.

Any topics you want to know more about? Let us know! The Varsity Tutors Blog editors love hearing your feedback and opinions. Feel free to email us at