Algebra is only formally mentioned in the new National Curriculum at Year 6. However, we can encourage algebraic thinking from a much younger age. In her article, Anne Watson suggests ways of developing an algebraic, structural understanding of number and arithmetic. Lynne's article builds on this by explaining how the chosen tasks below support Anne's advice.

By following through the threads of algebraic thinking discussed in this article, we can ensure that children's mathematical experiences follow a continuous progression.

Lynne suggests activities which support the development of primary children's algebraic thinking.

On a farm there were some hens and sheep. Altogether there were 8 heads and 22 feet. How many hens were there?

If you hang two weights on one side of this balance, in how many different ways can you hang three weights on the other side for it to be balanced?

"Ip dip sky blue! Who's 'it'? It's you!" Where would you position yourself so that you are 'it' if there are two players? Three players ...?

The value of the circle changes in each of the following problems. Can you discover its value in each problem?

Amy's mum had given her £2.50 to spend. She bought four times as many pens as pencils and was given 40p change. How many of each did she buy?

Investigate this balance which is marked in halves. If you had a weight on the left-hand 7, where could you hang two weights on the right to make it balance?

These eleven shapes each stand for a different number. Can you use the multiplication sums to work out what they are?

Can you continue this pattern of triangles and begin to predict how many sticks are used for each new "layer"?