Educational Studies in Mathematics

, Volume 98, Issue 1, pp 57–76 | Cite as

Examining early algebraic thinking: insights from empirical data

  • Maria Chimoni
  • Demetra Pitta-Pantazi
  • Constantinos Christou


The aim of this study is to better understand the notion of early algebraic thinking by describing differences in grade 4–7 students’ thinking about basic algebraic concepts. To achieve this goal, one test that involved generalized arithmetic, functional thinking, and modeling tasks, was administered to 684 students from these grades. Quantitative analysis of the data yielded four distinct groups of students demonstrating a wide range of performance in these tasks. Qualitative analysis of students’ solutions provided further insight into their understanding of basic algebraic concepts, and the nature of the processes and forms of reasoning they utilized. The results showed that students in each group were able to solve different number and types of tasks, using different strategies. Results also indicated that students from all grades were present in each group. These findings suggest the presence of a consistent trend in the difficulty level across early algebraic tasks which may support the existence of a specific developmental trend from more intuitive types of early algebraic thinking to more sophisticated ones.


Early algebraic thinking Generalized arithmetic Functional thinking Modeling Concepts Processes Reasoning forms 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Chimoni
    • 1
  • Demetra Pitta-Pantazi
    • 1
  • Constantinos Christou
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EducationUniversity of CyprusNicosiaCyprus

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