Why Black and Latino Children May Need     Basic Algebra Instruction in Preschool!!

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Consequently, African-American kindergartens have an opportunity to acquire math skills (algebraic and arithmetic) before their awareness of racial biases suppresses their ability to do so.

Furthermore, a 2004 study by Harvard and University of Chicago researchers showed that black students outperform white students on reading at kindergarten entry after a small set of socioeconomic factors are identified. 

Since white students don’t generally experience stereotype threat, their reading levels quickly surpass those of African-Americans during the first two years of school, as demonstrated in the above 1998 study.  However, the Chalkbeat article mentioned that black children’s summertime rate of learning was on par with white students, but fell about 10 percent behind them during the school year. Again, stereotype threat could be the reason for this discrepancy. African-American children are capable of learning Algebra in preschool – before they start suffering the negative consequences of racial stereotypes.

Therefore, U.S. preschools should begin teaching this subject, particularly since a child’s brain grows to 90 percent of its adult size by age five! In the meantime, black parents (and others) can utilize various online resources to help their preschool and kindergarten children learn basic Algebra. As a former preschool assistant teacher at Colorado’s Castle Pines Academy and as a private math tutor for children age 4-8, I have found that preschool children enjoy learning arithmetic by constructing and solving Algebra equations. Also, during my time in 2005 and 2009 as a volunteer  

Algebra tutor in Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua, I found that preschool Latino children also easily learn algebraic rules. Moreover, they understand why following the rules enable them to answer questions like: “How many tadpoles are hiding behind the X plant?” and “How many dollars does Princess Sasha need to save poor little Richard?”  

It’s amazing to see 4-year-olds construct Algebra equations with facts from fun and engaging fables, puzzles, and math tricks. Then, they solve the equations by manipulating animal clip art, numbers, and large dots (that they draw instead of pictures and numbers). To get the final answer, young children also manipulate math symbols such as plus (+), minus (-), multiplication (•), and division (/) signs as well as the famous letter Χ. 

Like white children, 4- to 5-year-old African-American and Latino children respond enthusiastically to math lessons that they believe will enable them to open an eighth-grade Algebra book and correctly solve the equations. With practice, preschool children can memorize the Quadratic Formula just like they can memorize words to a song. In fact, they find solving quadratic equations to be pretty easy after they learn the rules for multiplication and exponents. For example, they learn that writing 2²  is the same thing as 2 • 2, so both equal 4.

Math educators emphasize that students can excel in higher mathematics courses (e.g. calculus, trigonometry, differential equations, etc.), if they consistently follow rules associated with symbols that represent numbers (e.g., λ, ξ, x, sin(θ), f(x), etc.). That’s because these symbols involve the same rules as those associated with familiar math signs, like +, -, and =.