Identifying and promoting young students’ early algebraic thinking




early algebraic thinking;, learning activity;, mathematical thinking;, primary school;, Toulmin's argumentation model


Algebraic thinking is an important part of mathematical thinking, and researchers agree that it is beneficial to develop algebraic thinking from an early age. However, there are few examples of what can be taken as indicators of young students’ algebraic thinking. The results contribute to filling that gap by analyzing and exemplifying young students’ early algebraic thinking when reasoning about structural aspects of algebraic expressions during a collective and tool-mediated teaching situation. The article is based on data from a research project exploring how teaching aiming to promote young students’ algebraic thinking can be designed. Along with teachers in grades 2, 3, and 4, the researchers planned and conducted research lessons in mathematics with a focus on argumentation and reasoning about algebraic expressions. The design of teaching situations and problems was inspired by Davydov’s learning activity, and Toulmin’s argumentation model was used when analyzing the students’ algebraic thinking. Three indicators of early algebraic thinking were identified, all non-numerical. What can be taken as indicators of early algebraic thinking appear in very short, communicative micro-moments during the lessons. The results further show that the use of learning models as mediating tools and collective reflections on a collective workspace support young students’ early algebraic thinking when reasoning about algebraic expressions.


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How to Cite

Wettergren, S. (2022). Identifying and promoting young students’ early algebraic thinking. LUMAT: International Journal on Math, Science and Technology Education, 10(2), 190–214.



Conceptual understanding and mathematical thinking