Introducing the concept

How can the idea of a letter being a variable be introduced to pupils? The central principle in algebra is the use of letters to represent variables which enable us to express generalisations. Pupils should therefore first encounter the use of letters as algebraic symbols for this purpose. The most effective way of doing this is through the tabulation of number patterns in columns, with the problem being to express the pattern in the numbers, first in words and later in symbols. A useful game in this context is called What’s My Rule?