Algebra in Year 6

Whilst algebra has traditionally been part of the secondary school curriculum it now has a place in the Year 6 Programme of Study. The National Curriculum states that:

Pupils should be taught to:

• use simple formulae
• generate and describe linear number sequences
• express missing number problems algebraically
• find pairs of numbers that satisfy an equation with 2 unknowns
• enumerate possibilities of combinations of 2 variables

Function machines are an excellent way to help children with the early stages of algebra. The number that is put into the machine is called the input and the number that comes out is called the output. The function machine will always carry out the same operations in the same order. For example, the machine might input a number, multiply it by 2 and then add 1. If the input was 4 the output would be 4 x 2 + 1 = 9.

The input number could be any number and rather than saying ‘the input number’ each time we can just call it n.

If n is the input number we can write the output as n x 2 + 1.  Algebra!

There are always one or two questions on algebra in the KS2 Maths Reasoning Papers, often looking at sequences. The rule to get the numbers is given but some of the numbers are missing e.g.

Rule: multiply by 2 and then add 3

Write the missing numbers:

??    25    53   ??

Finding the last number in the sequence is easy; just follow the rule by multiplying 53 by 2 making 106 and then adding 3. Answer: 109.

It is the first number which is harder to find. Because it is the first number in the sequence a child will need to look at the second number (25) and work in reverse:

subtract 3 from 25, making 22 and then divide by 2 to get 11.

One mark for each answer in the test.

As well as all the work in the main Algebra category we also have a whole series of similar questions in our Maths Booster section, well worth a look.