Math

# Is Algebra Hard? [Understanding Difficulty of Algebra]

Written by Medha Pandey

Updated on: 27 Jun 2024

Content

Did you just hear your seniors or cousins say that algebra is a hard nut to crack? And now you’re worried about the challenges that you might face with algebra?

Understanding the challenges of algebra can help you get ready to tackle them and do well in the subject.

We spoke to our expert Algebra tutors at Wiingy, to evaluate the challenges for algebra. Here you go with their verdict:

**Algebra can be really hard and tricky to tackle. The concepts of algebra are more abstract and complex than what you may have handled in basic arithmetic subjects. **

Algebra is not about memorizing formulas. It’s about understanding the logic behind the formulas and applying them accurately. It involves new problem-solving techniques with variables and symbols – which can be hard to master at once.

**So does it mean you’re going to have a tough time with algebra?** Well, it depends. Several factors and reasons determine the difficulty of algebra. Continue reading to discover:

- Factors that can make algebra hard.
- Reasons why students find algebra hard.
- Hardest algebra topics.
- And, how to excel in algebra.

**Looking to Learn Algebra? Book a Free Trial Lesson and match with top **Algebra Tutors** ****for Concepts, Homework Help, and Test Prep.**

**Factors that determine the difficulty of algebra**

**Many students find algebra overwhelming because it is the first math class in which they must deal with variables, abstract concepts, and critical problem-solving. **

The key factors that determine the difficulty of algebra are:

**Your foundational knowledge of algebra**

Students start learning fundamental algebraic concepts in elementary school (grade 5). They’re taught the basics first and then introduced to advanced algebraic concepts. The key here is to master the basics first.

**Once you know the basics of algebra, you will have a clearer understanding of the logic used in the advanced concepts. **You will pick up the algebra lessons easily, and faster.

However, not knowing the basics and trying to learn an advanced algebra concept is like trying to spell a word without understanding the alphabet!

📖**Recommended Reading: What is Pre-Algebra?**

**Your practicing skills**

Imagine yourself walking to a shop daily. You get used to the turns, you’ll know when to walk slowly, and when to stop.

Now, let’s say you have visited a shop only once. It’s been a long time since then, and you are to visit it again. What are the chances that you are going to remember the route correctly? Probably none.

**Similarly, the more you practice, the more you become familiar with the formulas and concepts of algebra.** Regular practice helps you remember the problem-solving patterns better. As a result, it becomes easy to solve algebra problems.

**🥇Looking for the best tips to learn Algebra? Read: How to Learn Algebra?**

**Your attention span**

Do you know what’s the average attention span of a human? It’s 8.25 seconds, less than that of a goldfish.

Your attention span decides your efficiency in a task at a given time.

**So if you’re learning algebra, you must have a good attention span to grasp more knowledge in a given time.**

Getting distracted or zoned out during an algebra class means you may skip the important notes shared by the teacher. Frequent distractions during algebra practice will waste your time. Eventually, it might get harder to cover the lesson on time.

**Reasons why algebra can be difficult for students**

Bill Gates writes in his GatesNotes that the majority of students flunk in algebra. According to the psychological study by Gunawardena Egodawatte, “**Algebra is hard to teach and hard to learn**.”

After all, what’s the struggle about? Why do students find it so hard to learn algebra? Here are the most significant reasons for students to struggle with algebra:

**The shift from concrete math to abstract math**

**One significant challenge in learning algebra is the shift from concrete math to abstract math.**

Until elementary school, you typically practice concrete arithmetic. It requires you to think in terms of quantity, objects, and numbers. For example, as soon as your teacher would say, One-fourth of an apple, you can easily imagine an apple being sliced into four pieces.

However, as you reach middle school math, you start learning algebra. algebra is an abstract math subject, which makes it harder.

For example, variables in algebra (x, y, and z,) along with exponents and complex formulas cannot be visualized like objects.

**💡Wondering when to take Algebra 1 and Algebra 2? In What Grade Should You Take Algebra 1 and Algebra 2?**

**A wrong teaching approach**

Effective teaching is essential for mastering algebra. **If your teacher is not explaining the “what” and “why” of your math problems, learning algebra can be harder for you.**

Let’s look at this example to understand what difference the right teaching approach can make:

**Andy Castro, a math teacher for high school explains why is algebra so hard****:**

“If I ask a student to solve x/2 +4=9, and the student tries to remember the steps to solving the problem they have already created that separation in their mind.”

Agreed? That’s the typical approach of mugging up math formulas and recalling their application. However, math is not all about memorizing the formulas, it’s about understanding.

Mr. Andy continues, “The first question to ask is, What am I actually trying to figure out here?

The answer is, Half of a number added to four is nine.”

Logically, I can play around with this. Half of the number 12 added to 4 is 10. So, 12 is close but too much… So maybe 10.”

Yes! And then when you study the properties of equality and the inverse operations in algebra, the calculation makes a lot more sense to you:

Q. Solve: x/2 +4=9

Solution: If x/2 +4=9,

-> x/2 = 9 – 4

-> x/2 = 5

-> x = 5*2

-> x = 10

Answer: Hence, the value of x is 10.

Proof: 10/2+4=9

-> 5+4=9

-> 9=9 [Proven]

**Math anxiety **

**“One big factor for math anxiety is a child’s self-math concepts”**– says Molly Jameson, Ph.D., an Educational Psychologist at the University of Northern Colorado. Approximately 20%-25% of students have math anxiety.

Math anxiety is the feeling of nervousness when facing math problems. **Students who have math anxiety find it hard to solve even simple math problems. **

Math anxiety generally results from a poor foundation in math. When you don’t understand the basic concepts well, you fail to solve math problems efficiently. Gradually, you develop a record of poor math skills.

As a result, you might get judged for performing poorly in math. You may even start to fear failing in math. These experiences and feelings can lead to math anxiety.

**Here’s a quick video by Dr. Katie Nall to ****eliminate math anxiety****.** However, it is important to seek assistance from your parents and teachers on this.

**Lack of critical thinking**

**Algebra requires strong logical thinking and critical thinking skills to analyze problems and find the right solution. **

When solving algebra problems, you must identify patterns, and develop problem-solving strategies. Students who struggle with critical thinking will have difficulty in solving algebra problems.

**Lack of personalized support**

**In a class of 20 students, your teacher may not be able to give you 1-on-1 attention for doubt-solving. **

Struggling with concepts can make it difficult for you to grasp algebra concepts. You may also struggle to prepare for tests or to meet your assignment deadlines. Altogether, tackling algebra on your own can become challenging.

**💡Tip: **You can get 1-on-1 concept clearing, homework, and test prep help from expert algebra tutors.

**What are the hardest algebra topics?**

You start learning algebra from middle school onwards, and you may continue taking a major in the same.

In each academic year, you will face certain new concepts and formulas that will seem to be harder than the previous year. **In general, Algebraic Equations and Factoring are the hardest algebra topics. **

According to TheTopTens, where students have voted on the most important topics in algebra, they also share which topics they find most difficult.

The topics that are considered most difficult in algebra are:

- Monomials and Polynomials
- Exponential Functions
- Quadratic Equations
- Factoring
- Systems of Equations
- Functions and Sequences
- Systems of Equations
- Inequalities
- Absolute Value

However, one topic that is hard for one student might be easy for you. So, it’s best to practice and judge the difficulty level of a topic by yourself.

**💡Read What is Algebra? to learn about Algebra curriculum and topics in detail.**

**How to excel in algebraic concepts?**

**Students who do well in algebra have greater access to advanced STEM and AP courses.** They are more likely to get enrolled in college and graduate with a bachelor’s in science or technology. Eventually, they can find jobs with competitive salaries.

But how do you excel in algebra despite the difficulty it poses? Our tutors suggest the following tips to do well in algebra:

**Understand algebraic concepts**

Trying to learn the formulas without understanding them will not help. Before learning math formulas you must understand the “what”, “why”, and “how” behind them.

Take time to understand the concepts of the algebra formulas. **If you have a strong understanding of formulas you will know how and when to apply them. **Besides, you will learn the formulas faster and retain them for longer.

**Clear doubts with your teacher**

Never hesitate while clearing doubts and asking questions. Raise your hand and ask your teacher to clear your doubts whenever you’re confused.

Don’t worry about sounding dumb! Knowledge is better than ignorance!

Think of it as the first and last chance to understand the concepts right.** If you don’t get the basics right now, you know it will get harder later. **

**Take notes**

Take notes on all the important ideas and concepts your teacher discusses. **You can revisit the notes whenever you want guidance for homework, revision, or test prep.**

**Have an effective study plan**

**Plan your study schedule wisely so that you practice strategically. **Plan which lesson to cover, what questions and formulas to focus on, and how much time to devote to the topics.

**Practice consistently**

Learning algebra requires certain mental flexibility and the right approach toward problem-solving. Consistent practice and patience will enhance these skills in you.**Besides, you will become more familiar with the concepts and formulas, so solving problems becomes easier. **

**Seek professional help**

**If math classes in school are not enough for you, try to get help from professional ****Algebra tutors****. **They can help you with personalized guidance and support. It will become easier to understand the concepts, complete your homework, or prepare for a test.

**📖Recommended Reading: **

**Final thoughts on “Is algebra hard?”**

**Algebra can be a hard subject because it is based on abstract concepts. You have to solve complex problems that involve variables and strong critical thinking and logical reasoning skills. **

Whether you find algebra hard or easy also depends on your foundational algebraic skills, practice skills, and attention span.

You may also find algebra hard due to the shift from concrete arithmetic to abstract math. A wrong teaching approach, lack of critical thinking, and lack of personalized support can also make algebra challenging for you.

**In general, Algebraic Equations and Factoring are considered the hardest algebraic subjects.**

To tackle the challenge in algebra, you must understand the concepts well. Clear doubts with your teacher without hesitation. You must take notes and have an effective study plan where you know which lessons to target on what days. Lastly, if a traditional school setup is not working for you, consider getting help from an algebra tutor.

**Looking to Learn Algebra? Book a Free Trial Lesson and match with top **Algebra Tutors** ****for Concepts, Homework Help, and Test Prep.**

**Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)**

**Is algebra difficult?**

Algebra can be tough because it deals with abstract ideas, not just memorizing formulas. You have to understand complex formulas with variables and symbols. It’s not just about knowing the formulas; you also need to think critically to figure out the problem and how to solve it.

**Is algebra harder or calculus?**

The difference in difficulty between algebra and calculus varies from person to person. It depends on how you like to learn and what you find easier. But usually, calculus is considered more complex. It builds on what you learn in algebra, geometry, and trigonometry, and involves more advanced concepts and abstract ideas.

**Is algebra harder or geometry?**

Geometry involves fewer mathematical operations compared to algebra, and the math it requires is generally less complex. However, geometry also involves memorizing many rules and formulas, which can be challenging for some people, making it seem harder than basic algebra.

**How long does it take to learn algebra fully?**

Learning algebra takes different amounts of time for different people, depending on how dedicated you are, how fast you learn, and what you already know. Some sources say that if you study regularly, it might take you anywhere from a month to a year or even longer to really understand algebra.

Written by

Medha PandeyReviewed by

Prerit Jain