Can you Use Algebra for Primary Maths?

When most people think about algebra, they think about secondary school or tertiary math classes. However, did you know that students are taught algebra in primary math? Algebra skills can actually be a great tool for primary math education. In this blog post, we will discuss what algebra is all about and whether students can use algebra to solve problem sums and other relevant questions in primary math.

What is algebra?

Algebra is a branch of mathematics that deals with the study of mathematical symbols and the rules for manipulating these symbols. Algebra is used to describe and explain relationships between quantities, as well as to simplify expressions and solve equations. In addition, algebra can be used to represent unknown numbers in problem sums and other questions.

Why is it important to learn about algebra in primary school?

There are several reasons why learning about algebra in primary school is important. Firstly, it helps students to understand and work with abstract concepts. Secondly, it develops problem-solving skills. Thirdly, it introduces students to new mathematical concepts that they will encounter in secondary school. Lastly, understanding algebra can help students to better solve word problems and other complex questions.

Is algebra difficult for primary school students?

No, algebra is not difficult for primary school students. However, it is important to note that algebra is a very different way of thinking from the arithmetic that students are used to. As such, it may take some time for students to get used to working with algebraic expressions and equations. Nevertheless, with some practice, most students will be able to pick up the basics of algebra quite easily.

When will primary school students learn about algebra?

According to the Ministry of Education (MOE) and Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB), primary school students will be introduced to algebra, and how to describe linear number sequences and simplify simple algebraic expressions in Primary Six. In addition, they will learn how to represent unknown numbers in word problems and other algebra questions. On top of that, students will consolidate their understanding of algebra through more challenging problem sums and word problems. More complex aspects such as algebraic equations will only be taught at higher levels such as secondary schools, junior colleges and polytechnics.

The role of algebra in solving problem sums or other primary school Maths questions

So, can students use algebra for primary math? Yes, they certainly can! In fact, using algebra can be a great way for students to learn about solving problems and understanding concepts in primary math. When solving problem sums or other questions, students should look for keywords that indicate an unknown number. Once they have found these keywords, they can then use algebraic expressions to represent the unknown values. This will help them to solve the problem more easily.

However, while students can use algebra to solve primary math, it is not highly recommended to do so. This is because most primary school students are still getting used to the concept of algebra, and it may be more difficult for them to understand the question if it is written in algebraic form. In addition, primary school teachers do not actively teach students how to use algebra to solve problems. As such, it is best for students to focus on understanding the mathematical concepts first, before trying to apply them in problem-solving or other questions. Nevertheless, if students are able to understand the question and solve it using algebra, then there is no harm in doing so.

Which types of primary school Maths questions can be solved with algebra?

In general, any primary school Maths question that involves unknown values can be solved with algebra. This includes word problems, as well as questions that involve keywords such as ‘increase’, ‘decrease’ and ‘difference’. Some common questions that can be solved using algebra include finding an unknown quantity, solving simultaneous equations, and manipulating algebraic expressions.

However, it is important to note that not all questions need to be solved with algebra. For instance, if a question can be easily solved by using basic arithmetic operations such as addition, subtraction and multiplication, then there is no need to use algebra. In addition, some questions may require the use of other mathematical techniques such as drawing models, heuristics and basic arithmetic. As such, students should only use algebra when it is necessary.

How to use algebra to find the value of unknown quantities?

Here is an example of how you can use algebra to solve a problem sum involving unknown quantities:

The total amount of money that Ally and Betty have is $240. After Ally bought some items with 2/3 of her money and Betty gave 3/5 of her money away, Betty now has $8 more than Ally. How much did Betty have in the beginning?


Let the amount of money Ally and Betty had be A and B, respectively.

3A + 5B = 240

2B – A = 8

6B – 3A = 24

6B + 5B + 3A – 3A = 240 + 24

11B = 264

B = 24

Betty had $24 in the beginning.

How can students improve their knowledge of algebra in primary Math?

There are a few key ways that students can improve their understanding and use of algebra in primary maths. First, they need to be able to identify when algebra is needed and when it is not. Second, they need to be able to understand what the variables in an algebraic expression represent. Lastly, they should be comfortable solving questions using algebra.

In addition, parents can help their children with algebra by encouraging them to ask questions and helping them understand the concepts. There are also many excellent resources available online and in libraries that can help students learn more about algebra. Parents can also enrol their children in primary maths tuition centres or engage a maths tuition teacher.


Algebra can be a powerful tool for solving mathematical problems, and it is often taught in high school and college mathematics courses. However, some basic algebra concepts are still taught in primary school, and it is also possible to apply algebra to solve primary maths questions. Ultimately, the best way for students to improve their algebra skills is to practice as often as possible. With time and effort, they will be able to master this mathematical concept.

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