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Developing algebraic thinking

This module is for you if you are interested in developing your knowledge and understanding of the learning of algebra particularly at Key Stages 2–4. It integrates development of the core ideas of algebra with relevant pedagogical constructs and principles, and will extend your awareness of how people learn and use algebra. There is no formal examination: assessment is based on three tutor-marked assignments and an end-of-module assessment. In order to complete the module assessments, you will need access to learners of algebra at Key Stages 2–4, which could include adult learners. 

Modules count towards OU qualifications

OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate-level module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code
Study level
3 10 6
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
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Student Reviews

This was a very useful, interesting and challenging module that completed my Graduate Diploma in Mathematics Education. The earlier modules...
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Loved the course!!! It helped so much with the new initiative of rich tasks in the classroom and has provided...
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What you will study

The module is designed to:

  • develop your algebraic thinking
  • raise your awareness of the importance of learners expressing generality for themselves
  • provide experience of different teaching approaches and the learning opportunities they afford
  • develop your awareness of, and facility with, ICT in the learning and teaching of algebra
  • develop your knowledge and understanding of the mathematics which underpins Key Stage 2–4.

The module consists of four blocks of work. Each block has four chapters, which have recurring themes:

  • expressing generality
  • mathematical powers and themes
  • symbol use
  • use of technology.

Each section starts with a ‘quickie’ task, and then uses tasks for you to work on to introduce the topic.  Thus the module is ‘practical’ in that it requires you to practise algebraic thinking. There are more tasks than can be completed in a first pass through the book, because it is intended to serve as a career-long resource.

Mathematical topics include: word-problems; figurate numbers; interplay between graphs, tables and formulae; introducing symbols; and reasoning with algebra.

You will learn

Successful study of this module should enhance your skills in:

  • communicating mathematical ideas clearly and succinctly
  • explaining mathematical ideas to others.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. There will be individual telephone tutorials rather than face-to-face group tutorials, and some tutors may offer online tutorials.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You can choose whether to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) on paper or online through the eTMA system. You may want to use the eTMA system for some of your assignments but submit on paper for others. This is entirely your choice.

The end-of-module assessment takes the form of a 3000-word tutor-marked assignment. You will be given more detailed information when you begin the module.

The end-of-module assessment (EMA) must be submitted online.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in April 2015. We expect it to be available once a year.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


The module is open to anyone aged 18 or over, though it is intended particularly for teachers, teaching assistants, home-school parents and special educational needs coordinators.

You do need to have a reasonable standard of spoken and written English to study successfully with us. Poor language skills will make study more difficult, and it will take longer. The normal requirements for English language skills are explained on our website.

Your own knowledge of algebra should be at, or above, the level of a B in GCSE maths, or you could have studied Mathematical thinking in schools (ME620) or the discontinued modules ME624 or MEXR624.

We recommend that you study Mathematical thinking in schools (ME620) before this module as it provides a useful background in mathematics education and you are more likely to successfully complete this OU level 3 module.

If you are considering taking ME625 alongside another OU module, please bear in mind that the workload for this one alone is around 12 hours a week.

In order to complete the module assessments, you will need regular access to at least one other learner of algebra, with whom to work on approximately two tasks a week. 

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.


Start End England fee Register
28 Mar 2015 Sep 2015 -

Registration now closed

The deadline for financial support applications has now passed

02 Apr 2016 Sep 2016 £1350.00

Registration closes 10/03/16 (places subject to availability)


You may need to apply for some payment or funding options earlier. Please check the Fees and Funding information or contact us for information.

This module is expected to start for the last time in April 2017.

Additional Costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or book a call back at a time that is convenient to you.

Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2016. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

This information was provided on 26/03/2015.

What's included

Module text and module guide, bookmark and website.

You will need

It would be very helpful, but not compulsory, to have access to a graphics calculator – the recommended models are the TI-83 Plus or TI-84 plus.

You require access to the internet at least once a week during the module to download module resources and to keep up to date with module news.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as the study materials and activities are accessible via a web browser. You may also be required to perform other tasks, such as word processing, using spreadsheets, taking part in online forums, and submitting files to the university for assessment. The additional software for these tasks will either be provided or is freely available.

We recommend either of the following:

  • Windows desktop or laptop computer running Windows 7 or later operating system
  • Macintosh desktop or laptop computer running OS X 10.7 or later operating system.

A netbook, tablet, smartphone or Linux computer that supports one of the browsers listed below may be suitable. The screen size should be at least 1024 (H) x 768 (W) pixels. If you intend to use one of these devices please ensure you have access to a suitable desktop or laptop computer in case you are unable to carry out all the module activities on your mobile device.

We recommend a minimum 1 Mbps internet connection and any of the following browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 9 and above
  • Apple Safari 7 and above
  • Google Chrome 31 and above
  • Mozilla Firefox 31 and above.

Note: using the latest version for your browser will maximise security when accessing the internet. Using company or library computers may prevent you accessing some internet materials or installing additional software.

See our Skills for OU study website for further information about computing skills for study and educational deals for buying Microsoft Office software.

If you have a disability

The study materials are available in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and mathematical, scientific, and foreign language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. 

There are many diagrams in the module book and printed material, and associated computer work, which may present a challenge to visually-impaired students. 

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.