What Topics Are Usually Covered in High School Algebra 1?

High school algebra 1 usually covers symbolic notation, single-step and multi-step equations, linear and exponential equations, linear inequalities, linear and exponential functions, quadratic functions, fractional equations, polynomials and factoring. The course combines graphing, computation, function writing, theoretical discussions and real-world problem solving.

Algebra 1 focuses on elementary algebra and builds on arithmetic concepts. Students gain mathematical vocabulary such as order of operations, distributive property, absolute value, x intercept, y intercept, slope, slope-intercept form, scatter plots, compound inequality, inconsistent systems, undetermined systems, matrix, leading coefficient and negative exponents.

Algebraic variables can stand for unknown values, describe relationships between changing quantities, state mathematical properties or describe generalities for which a specific value is not necessary. Although ancient Babylonians, Egyptians and Greeks used algebraic expressions, modern algebra has existed only since the 19th century. Until the 16th century, equations were written in full sentences under the guidelines of rhetorical algebra.

Since each state is responsible for setting curriculum, high school algebra 1 is not consistent across school districts. The key topics are, however, part of the Common Core State Standards. In 1990, only one out of six U.S. eighth graders enrolled in algebra 1. By 2011 that number had increased to nearly one out of two.