Algebraic Thinking and Misconceptions

Supported by a grant from the United States Department of Education

Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education


Algebra is considered the "gateway" to higher education. Failure rates in Algebra courses are staggering in school districts across the country. This lack of success disproportionately affects high needs students and impacts high school graduation rates, success in higher mathematics, and college enrollment. A new, innovative approach that prepares new teachers to stem the tide of failure is needed that takes into account why students struggle in algebra. Over 800 studies examine students’ struggles in algebra and potential strategies to help students overcome conceptual obstacles. Yet, the size of this resource makes it essentially inaccessible to preservice teachers. 

The purpose of the Algebraic Thinking Project is to restructure preservice math teacher education by synthesizing that research on students’ thinking into a Center for Algebraic Thinking that will empower new teachers to open the algebra gateway with their students. The innovative Center includes an online encyclopedia of algebraic thinking, a catalog of formative assessment problems, a database of technological tools, iPad apps, modules for math methods courses that incorporate research, and a collaborative social network for teachers of algebra. 

The consequence of ATP at four public and private universities in Oregon will be restructured Math Methods courses that lead to increased preservice teachers’ knowledge, skills, and dispositions towards students’ algebraic thinking. Preservice teachers’ students will have better algebra understanding, higher test scores, graduation rates, and college enrollment. Nationally, our web-based resources and experience implementing the courses in multiple contexts will facilitate easy replicability across the country. ATP will use a growth model to examine the effects of participation and a multi-level model to control for teacher and student level effects. Case studies and assessment instruments will inform refinement of the resources and courses and success of the project. The Center is being developed by a consortium of four public and private universities: Willamette UniversityPacific UniversityGeorge Fox University, and Western Oregon University and evaluated by the International Society for Technology in Education. Also participating are Portland State UniversityLewis & Clark College, and University of Northern Colorado.

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CONTACT: algebrathinking[at]

The Center for Algebraic Thinking

Willamette University
Graduate School of Education
900 State St.
Salem, OR  97301

Creative Commons License
The suite of resources including the Encyclopedia of Algebraic Thinking, Formative Assessment Database, Technology Database, and iOS Apps by Center for Algebraic Thinking are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at