Algebraic thinking is one of the key concept domains within the K-5 common core math standards. Using a symbol to represent missing quantities is introduced as early as first grade. By third grade, students are asked to represent two step word problems using a letter for the unknown quantity. A typical story problem might look like this:

The candy store has 70 chocolate bars. 28 chocolate bars were sold in the morning. The remaining chocolate bars were placed evenly into 2 packages. How many chocolate bars were in each package?

An equation representing this story problem would be 2 x A + 28 = 70 and we would ask students to find the value of A. But why?

Young children come to our classrooms bursting with creativity and curiosity, excited to learn and explore. To fully grasp math concepts, children need to experience math firsthand, to immerse themselves in interesting problems, to own the process in some way. The challenge for us, as teachers, is to find ways to connect children’s innate curiosity with the concepts we want them to learn.

What if 2 x A + 28 = 70 looked like this? Now we have their attention!

Screenshot of Candy Challenge Pro Where oh where do the candies go? Solve each challenge and soon you will know!

Our math game series, Candy Challenge, presents algebraic thinking problems in the context of a candy store mystery. The store has 30 different candies but the price of each is unknown. The shelves contain empty jars, labeled 1¢ to 30¢. The goal is to find the price of each candy and place it in the correct jar. To do that, students must solve progressively more difficult number puzzles. These visual number puzzles are actually algebra problems in disguise.

Candy Challenge Pro invites students to solve 18 algebra problems and is best suited for grades 4+. Candy Challenge Junior provides simpler challenges that are ideal for grade 3 students and younger students who may be more advanced. Candy Challenge Practice is recommended for teachers who want to explore these math tasks with the whole class. There are three problem solving levels to try and the problems can be displayed on a whiteboard.

Planning lessons around the common core? Introduce algebraic thinking to your students with the Candy Challenge series of math games. Be sure to have a few sweets on hand when you do!