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Pre-Algebra—Semester A

The number one place for all things number.

Course Description

Are you one of the many students out there that shivers at the thought of having to work with equations and graphs? What about rational and irrational numbers? Okay, enough with the scary words. Sometimes we think Stephen King doesn't have anything on the tales from middle and high school math classes.

What we're about to tell you might come as a surprise: Pre-Algebra isn't really that scary. Sure, there's something creepy about walking into a dark basement. But once the lights get flicked on, you just might find a surprise party waiting at the bottom of the stairs. (We wish!)
Our goal is to turn on that light bulb and shed some insight—and hilarity—onto the darkness that is hiding the Pre-Algebra party.

In this course, we’ll give you all the examples, practice problems, and projects you need to

  • learn all about the nuts and bolts of equations;
  • understand and use equations themselves;
  • and tackle graphs of lines, which happen to come from equations.

See how it all comes full circle?

P.S. Pre-Algebra is a two-semester course. You're looking at Semester A, but you can check out Semester B here.

Technology Requirements

  • Microsoft Office, Google Docs, or another word processing program
  • A scanner (or access to one)
  • A camera (a camera phone is sufficient)
  • All other work can be done via the Shmoop website

Supported browsers:

  • IE 7+
  • Firefox 4+ 
  • Chrome 10+ 
  • Safari 4+ 
  • Opera 11+

Required Skills

This course is an accelerated course meant to be taken after 6th grade math and before algebra I. If you are looking for pre-algebra to be split into two years, check out our 7th and 8th grade math courses (coming soon).

No special technological skills are necessary for this course other than very basic computer literacy.

Course Breakdown

Purchase units individually
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    Unit 1. Expressions and Basic Operations

    To be sure our math skills are in tiptop shape, we are going to start you out with some basic review. You may see some new and crazy things, like powers and roots, but other concepts will be old friends of yours, like addition and subtraction. Did we hear a sigh of relief or were those the baked beans you had earlier?

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    Unit 2. Solving Equations

    This unit is mainly about learning the rules that come along with expressions and equations, like the commutative and distributive properties. We'll also practice translating verbal sentences into written numeric and variable equations. No, that doesn't mean you can go around telling everyone you're bilingual.

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    Unit 3. Multi-Step Equations and Inequalities in One Variable

    This unit is all about solving multi-step equations and inequalities. It might feel a little shaky at first, but as long as you remember the basics of like terms and one-variable equations, you'll find yourself on solid ground again. And as long as you pay a little bit of attention, we'll make sure you don't get there face first.

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    Unit 4. Radicals and Exponents

    Here's where powers and roots will come back to haunt us. More like Casper the Friendly Ghost than the Exorcist, though. We'll go from prime numbers, GCFs, and factor trees to full-on radicals, exponents, and even negative powers (which—trust us—aren't nearly as evil as they sound).

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    Unit 5. Rational and Irrational Numbers

    Rational and irrational numbers are just types of numbers, like whole numbers and integers. Not only will we get to know these puppies, we'll learn how to use them in the real world. They might sound intimidating, but don't be fooled; they're all bark and no bite.

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    Unit 6. Ratios and Proportions

    In this unit, we'll get a really good flavor for how algebra and numbers mix together. Using fractions, units, and one-variable equations, we'll discuss ratios, proportions, rates, and we'll even do a fair amount of graphing on the coordinate plane. Who needs those dinky number lines, anyway?

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    Unit 7. Equations in Two Variables

    We'll learn all about how two-variable equations and inequalities can describe all sorts of different relationships—except your love-hate relationship with Lost. Those feelings are sort of inexplicable.

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    Unit 8. Linear Equations and Functions

    We start out this unit by learning about relations and functions, plotting ordered pairs, and graphing linear equations. Once we've got graphing down pat, we'll delve deep into the linear equations and their slope-intercept form. To top it all off, we'll tie these concepts together with a bit of modeling. Not that kind of modeling, so put that sequin dress away.

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