Something to consider when looking at a PreAlgebra course is that most students can head straight into Algebra I without a problem. Arithmetic and algebraic expressions are the same except algebra uses variables. For instance, in arithmetic you are taught that 1 + 1 = 2. It is a simple relationship between two numbers.
In algebra, while this relationship stays the same, you may be told that 1 + x =2, and be asked to identify that x has to equal 1, since the rules you learned back in arithmetic are still true.
The idea of using the more abstract “x” is the biggest hurdle for students. So if your student is strong in the idea of “x” already, I would consider just going ahead with Algebra I.
The biggest differences between PreAlgebra and Algebra are the pace and the length. Prealgebra introduces algebra concepts and takes each one slower and therefore does not cover as much material as does a standard Algebra I course. Some parents find it just as easy to take a regular Algebra I course and do it in two years.
Our algebra course based on Harold Jacob’s textbook Elementary Algebra. It is quite easy to split the book in half, take one half of the book in one year and complete the second half in the second year. In this way students are given the slower pace of a prealgebra course, allowed the opportunity to be introduced to the idea of algebra, without running headlong into a complete course in one single year. Plus parents only have to buy one curriculum and it lasts them through two years of math. The Harold Jacob’s text is particularly a good choice for this option because it starts out with some review, so students are eased into Algebra I without being overwhelmed.
We offer this textbook in our Algebra course along with video instruction and a free year of support to our customers so that taking this slower pace is easier on the parents and the student.
It is sometimes hard to assess whether your student needs the slower pace of PreAlgebra or if going straight into Algebra 1 would be better. To help you with this step of assessment, we recommend an algebra readiness exam. We do not have one on out site, but we have given you links to some good readiness exams.
Algebra Readiness Exams
These are three versions of a readiness test. One is not better than the other – but wanted to give you options in case links were down or you might want to have your student retake a test.
- NAPA College Algebra Readiness Test – Used at a college. Printable with answer key.
- Pierce College Readiness Test – Same as above but another sample.
- Algebra Class – 30 Questions with answer key. Even has review material if you find your student is a little weak in an area. Your student should get no more that one answer wrong in each section.
Evaluating the Algebra Readiness Test
You are not grading the raw score, but each section. The tests are broken into 5 groups. You need your student to get 80% correct in each section to be ready for algebra.
For example, using the Algebra Class link, each section has 5 questions, so your student should only miss one question at max in each section to pass the exam.
What if they do not pass?
Before I would jump into a whole year of prealgebra, look at where your student is weak. Was there only one section they needed to work on? Or were they close in all sections? If either is the case, work on the problem area with math sheets or videos. See the Algebra Class exam for information on review content.