Algebra-Ready is Life-Ready: Solving for ‘x’ Every Day

Letters from DreamBox parents really make my day – like this one:

“My son skipped 6th grade math and started 7th grade math when starting 6th grade. This year he will start 7th grade, and his school will let him go to Algebra 1… This is because of DreamBox!!! Thank you!

He has almost completed DreamBox 8th grade, and I wish it was more!! Please make more!! We love you!!!!”  -C.V.

Wow! You can’t fake that kind of excitement, and I love it when we hear from parents who are so proud of what their child has accomplished. It’s an unbeatable feeling, isn’t it?

What makes this letter even more special is the mom’s recognition of how important Algebra is to her son’s success. While Algebra may get a bad rap, it’s a key component of solid math skills and a big part of daily life. (Yes, really!)

Let’s look at grocery shopping. How do you compare prices on the same item from different companies? They’re often packaged in different sizes, so figuring out which one is cheaper requires a simple calculation, where x is the price per unit. It’s not that hard, and you probably do it all the time, but that’s algebra.

Or maybe you’re planning a home improvement project and need to figure out how much it will cost. This past summer, I removed a backyard playset to make way for a paver patio. To get an accurate cost estimate for the number of pavers required, I had to measure the length and width for the patio space and consider the size and shape of the paver style I wanted. Simple algebra and computations helped me create a beautiful patio that was on budget.

Given that algebraic reasoning is such a natural thing for humans to do, why is it that even some of the best students have math anxiety? It’s probably because learning math isn’t the same as learning to read. You’re not just going through more complex iterations of the same grammar and vocabulary.

Math requires students to open their minds to new ways to think about things. What worked to solve an equation last year may not work this year. Yikes – no wonder our kids are stressed. And that has consequences.

I read a recent study measuring the progress of our nation’s fourth and eighth graders in mathematics.  I was alarmed to find that only 40% of 4th grade students were at or above proficient in math, while just 33% of 8th graders demonstrated proficiency. This has gone largely unchanged since 2015.

And yet, there’s hope. Algebra is an essential component of math disciplines because students study and use elements of algebraic reasoning all the way from preschool to 12th grade. It provides continuity and a foundation for everything else. When you help your child become “algebra-ready” it will pay huge dividends—no matter what career choices they make.

Here’s why: algebra empowers students to connect concrete arithmetic to symbolic language that enables them to find unknown values. It helps them develop abstract reasoning skills. That’s important in STEM careers, but also in virtually every other one, too. For example:

  • Is your child a budding composer? They will need to understand the underlying structure of music, which—in its most essential form—is based on math.
  • Does your child want to be an artist? They will use algebra to calculate correct proportions, lines, and angles to create a balanced, visually pleasing work.
  • Is your child more interested in vocational trades? Any plumber, electrician or carpenter worth their salt is going to rely on algebra skills.

DreamBox’s pre-algebra curriculum for elementary students gives them the lessons and support they need at the right time to ensure they are algebra-ready. It’s a key part of our mission at DreamBox. And we’re able to do this because our manipulatives and games help students expand their understanding of algebra.  Our digital math learning tools adapt not only based on each students’ answers, but also based on how they solve their algebra problems.

But don’t just take my word for how well DreamBox works. We know parents and educators need proof. Here are a few results:

  • A study from Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research showed that students who use DreamBox for just an hour a week improve their math scores nearly 60 percent more than expected.
  • An analysis of nearly 8,000 students in grades 1-7 showed that students completing just five DreamBox lessons per week experienced double the growth of their peers on the Renaissance Star assessment.
  • EvidenceForESSA.org (curated by Johns Hopkins University) evaluated multiple digital math learning tools, and only DreamBox achieved the highest rating of “Strong”

As a mom myself, those studies and assessments give me comfort. And that’s also why the mom’s letter above made me grin. Her excitement and pride came bubbling through, and knowing DreamBox helped her son get ready for algebra is wonderful.

When kids go into algebra brimming with confidence, they develop better math skills. They aren’t afraid of looking at problems (algebraic or otherwise) from different perspectives to “solve for x,” no matter what ‘x’ may be: grocery price per unit, statistical analysis, or even just figuring out the right budget for a new paver patio.

Algebra-ready leads to life-ready – when you help your student develop algebra skills, you’re doing a lot more than you may realize. And you’re probably using algebra yourself a lot more than you realize, too!

Jamie Gier

Jamie Gier

SVP of Marketing at DreamBox Learning
I love building authentic brands that inspire people. For 25 years, I’ve been fortunate to work with technology companies who are leading positive social impact, from healthcare to education. But my greatest role is mom to a middle-schooler who motivates me to do good in the world.
Jamie Gier