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 =.