Algebra is a type of math that uses symbols to calculate instead of numbers all by themselves. It looks to many like a secret code, but once you learn the “key,” it opens up a lot of knowledge. There are many books out there to learn about algebra. This list provides twenty for students, teachers, parents, and everyone who needs them.
What Is Algebra?
The average person does not remember lots of stuff that they are taught in school. Many will remember this formula: a2 + b2 = c2, which is also known as the Pythagorean theorem.
The formula itself is a form of algebra. Algebra is a type of math where symbols are used instead of numbers themselves. The word “algebra” was first used by a medieval Arabic mathematician and roughly means “reunion of broken parts.”
Algebraic formulas (which can look like a form of secret code) are a basic way this can be done. If we break down each formula, it is easier to understand. And, as in everything out there, algebra has its rules and jargon.
Why Should I Read About Algebra?
Algebra is one of those things people learn in school that leads to people asking “why do I have to know about this?” Many people have problems learning algebra.
I myself did better in social sciences like history than mathematics. But, difficulty does not make something pointless.
The basic reason why you should learn algebra is that it is a simplified way to learn the answer to various questions. Algebra helps to train your brain in ways that the humanities do not.
It’s also required in secondary and college level education. Love it or hate it, you’ll have to at least muddle through to graduate.
Maybe you simply are interested in mathematics and algebra in particular. That is one more reason to read about it.
Best Books About Algebra
An important thing to do here is to find a good book that will help you learn it in a clear and accurate way. There are many books out there, but what ones should you choose?
As a parent, you may be thinking, “I have been out of school for years, I have no idea about this sort of thing!”
You are in the right place. Below is a summary of the top algebra books with some basic information that will help you pick the one best for you or the person you are assisting.
After looking at the top 10, I will then provide a list of ten more that are also useful.
TOP TEN ALGEBRA BOOKS
Hot X: Algebra Exposed! By Danica McKellar
Parents and some viewers of “classic television” might recognize Danica McKellar as “Winnie” from the show The Wonder Years. Others might recognize her from various Hallmark Channel movies.
She also has a degree in mathematics and is the author of multiple mathematics books, including Kiss My Math: Showing Pre-Algebra Who’s Boss, geared for tween and teenage girls, though boys can learn a lot from them as well. McKellar knows her stuff and explains algebra in a down-to-earth fashion with a twist of girl power.
Algebra Exposed is a great book to explain algebra in an engaging, real-world manner.
It does not offer many problems for students to practice their newly learned knowledge.
Amazing Algebra Activities by Jacqueline Medori Lynch
A veteran secondary math teacher with a specialization in special education, Jacqueline Medori Lynch has compiled over 50 practice worksheets in the form of puzzles and riddles.
Her aim is to create engaging activities to encourage the practice of algebra skills. It’s also a great way to activate both the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
Linear equations, functions and polynomials are just a few of the exercises included.
This book is good for a parent who wants to offer their child extra practice. Its 8.5” by 11” size is also perfect for teachers who want to copy the puzzles for their students.
There are lots of fun worksheets covering all algebra topics that add fun the practicing math.
This will not replace a textbook that details the theory behind algebra.
Algebra I Workbook For Dummies by Mary Jane Sterling
Mary Jane Sterling taught algebra, business calculus, geometry, and finite mathematics at Bradley University for more than 30 years. She knows her stuff and is no dummy.
This book provides down-to-earth explanations of Algebra I basics plus the tougher stuff with step-by-step examples you can understand and apply in the classroom.
Other books available in the series: a workbook, a review guide, practice problems, or a bundle of everything all in one.
The same is available in Algebra II.
This is a great refresher book for those going back to school.
It does not include many practice problems and may be too difficult for a novice.
The Cartoon Guide to Algebra (Cartoon Guide Series) by Larry Gonick.
Larry Gonick is both a cartoonist and Harvard instructor, making him a good choice to provide a fun graphic novel that provides a comprehensive look at algebra.
Do not be confused by the format. A range of educational subjects have been put in cartoon form. The book is good for students of all ages.
The book covers algebra’s history, practical applications, and all the essentials such as linear equations, polynomials, quadratic equations, and graphing techniques.
This is a great intro to algebra and will even work for middle school students.
There are no answer keys to the chapter quizzes.
Regents Algebra I Power Pack Revised Edition (Barron’s) Revised Edition by Gary M. Rubinstein M.S. [Algebra II also available]
Gary Rubinstein is a high school teacher living in New York City. Who is better to go to help study for the New York Regents exams?
This two book “power pack” provides a comprehensive review, administered exams, and practice questions to help students prepare for the Algebra I Regents exam. Part of the nearly one hundred years long Barron’s study guide collection.
This is a great prep review for those taking the New York State Regents
Though it can be helpful as a supplemental tool it’s really focused on 1 state test.
No-Nonsense Algebra: Part of the Mastering Essential Math Skills Series (Stepping Stones to Proficiency in Algebra) 2nd ed. Edition by Richard W Fisher
Richard Fisher is an award-winning teacher of over thirty years. This easy-to-follow text combined with tutorial videos is part of his well-developed teaching system. Thousands of his students have thrived using his technique, regularly skipping ahead in the process.
This gets kudos from homeschool parents. It also includes video tutorials.
There are some typos in the answer keys.
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Algebra by W. Michael Kelley
W. Michael Kelley is an award-winning calculus teacher and author of multiple math books, including the The Humongous Book of Algebra Problems (Humongous Books). His goal is to make math hurt less. Good luck with that!
This well-received addition to the familiar series makes the reader not feel like an idiot about algebra by breaking it down into easy to understand basics. The book is good both for the student in school and the adult learner of the subject matter.
It’s a very well-received book to up your algebra skills.
There are not many exercises to practice the skills.
Mathco College Algebra: The Step-By-Step Study Guide by L. Muriel Locke
Prof. Locke, an associate professor of mathematics, enjoys helping students to successfully improve their math skills in various math courses. She has used her doctoral education to help provide clear and understandable presentations of the concepts of college mathematics.
This study guide provides the fundamental concepts of College Algebra, which should be helpful for students in various courses. It gives you easy-to-learn Math notes, definitions, and study notes in a range of algebraic areas including polynomials, algebraic fractions, radicals, logarithms, and more. The many examples will help clarify all the material covered.
Easy to follow study guide for college students
May be too difficult for beginners.
Arithmetic and Algebra Again: Leaving Math Anxiety Behind Forever by Britta Immergut and Jean Burr Smith.
The authors have combined over fifty years experience teaching mathematics in middle school, high school, and colleges. Immergut wrote many books; Burr Smith was one of the originators of the concept of math anxiety, and received numerous awards for teaching techniques.
This is the second edition of the continuous best seller, which provides an expert approach in teaching the subject, particularly for those with math anxiety. The first section eases you in with basic math and then you are ready to tackle algebra.
Good review of the fundamentals of algebra.
The more advanced topics can be confusing. The answers are not explained.
Algebra Essentials Practice Workbook with Answers by Chris McMullin
Chris McMullen is a physics instructor at Northwestern State University of Louisiana. He earned his Ph.D. in participle physics.
This is one of a series of algebra workbooks that can be found on the linked Amazon page.
Each chapter has many practice exercises geared to build fluency in the subject matter. If you get an answer wrong, study your solution, rework the problem, or review the examples so that you can learn from your mistake.
If you’re looking for a TON of practice problems this is the book for you.
It’s very light on explaining the concepts; definitely geared as a workbook.
Algebra: Chapter 0 (Graduate Studies in Mathematics) by Paolo Aluffi
Paolo Aluffi has a Ph.D. with a dissertation in algebraic geometry and is a professor at Florida State University. He has visited many universities around the world. Aluffi has published over sixty research papers in algebraic geometry. He knows his stuff.
This book is a one-volume introduction to the main topics of algebra, suitable for a first sequence on the subject at the beginning graduate or upper undergraduate level.
The book does not only provide a reliable discourse on the material but readers have praised its style of writing. Prof. Aluffi shows the reader that a college textbook need not be boring.
Excellent for higher-level post-secondary students.
Not a beginner’s guide.
SOME MORE GOOD ALGEBRA BOOKS
Unknown Quantity: A Real and Imaginary History of Algebra by John Derbyshire
Many are familiar with John Derbyshire for his writings on conservative subjects. He is a mathematician and linguist by education, a systems analyst by profession, so a book on the history of algebra is right up his alley.
Along with the instruction and workbooks, it is good to have some books on history and philosophy in your scientific library. This book is an excellent account of the story of the development of algebraic thought from the beginning until now.
Publisher’s Weekly called this a “very entertaining survey of the development of algebra.”
Dr. Ron Larson is a professor of mathematics (began teaching in 1970) and is a pioneer in using multimedia to teach mathematics, having authored more than 30 software titles since 1990.
This book uses his basic basic techniques including learning by example, a down to earth writing style, emphasis on visualization through the use of graphs, and comprehensive exercise sets. Larson has also written many other math books, including a pre-algebra practice workbook.
Abstract Algebra by W.E. Deskins
W.E. “Gene” Deskins, a professor and mathematician was chairman of the math department at the University of Pittsburgh during the 1970s and 1980s. He was well known for cultivating both his students and his garden. This book is more mathematical related.
This is an excellent college textbook, appropriate for undergraduates, which has received much praise over the years. The book is not “chatty” but is chock full of material for those learning algebra in college. It is not geared to advanced students of algebra.
Algebra: 100 Fully Solved Equations To Explain Everything You Need To Know To Master Algebra! (Content Guide Included) by Math Wizo.
This is a small book of equations, part of the Math Wizo series (“Our mission at Math Wizo is to end the fear and pain around Math forever.”)
One reviewer said this is like doing work problems, but with numbers, and that is exactly what algebra is about. Helpful to practice and keep your skills sharp.
Algebra Part 1 (Quickstudy Reference Guides – Academic) by Inc. BarCharts
These quick study pamphlets are a useful set of laminated instructional materials with Algebra, Part 2 and Algebraic Equations also available. Six pages long, chock filled with details that will provide essential information at your fingertips.
Helpful for refreshers and as a research guide.
Everything You Need to Ace Pre-Algebra and Algebra I in One Big Fat Notebook (Big Fat Notebooks) by Jason Wang and Workman Publishing.
The BIG FAT NOTEBOOK covers everything you need to know during a year of Pre-Algebra and Algebra 1 class, breaking down one big fat subject into easy-to-understand lessons. Study better with ways to remember things, definitions, diagrams, education doodles, and quizzes to recap. And, in the end you (or your student) will learn and get better grades. Win win for all.
Forgotten Algebra 4th Edition by Barbara Lee Bleau, Meg Clemens, and Glenn Clemens
This “self-teaching” workbook is designed especially for students who need to go back to algebra basics as preparation for starting a college-level math course.
It’s also a helpful review for those preparing to take standardized exams that include math testing, such as a math placement exam, the GRE or GMAT.
Good to use with Bleu’s Forgotten Algebra book.
Jim Libby taught high school mathematics for over twenty years and at the end was an administrator. As he says:
“While I was teaching, I always thought there should be a resource for teachers to find appropriate high school math applications for students; one that would answer the question all math students seem to have: “Where are we ever going to use this?”
This book, particularly written for teachers, provides such a resource. It provides hundreds of practical applications for mathematics–from baseball statistics to the theory of relativity–that can be understood by anyone with a high school knowledge of mathematics.
Algebra for Fun by Yakov Perelman
Yakov Perelman (1882-1942) was a Russian and Soviet science writer and author of many popular science books. He was known for mixing humor with an ability to educate the average person on a range of math and science subjects.
This book, one of many he wrote, was an early mathematical best seller. Maybe, a new generation will appreciate this down-to-earth introduction to algebra. An example of his approach: an early problem using changing weather to introduce algebraic ideas.
The Algebraist by Ian M. Banks
A book with this title basically has to be included on a listicle about algebra.
Ian Banks was a Scottish sci fi writer, and this is a work of science fiction. He is particularly known for “Culture Series” novels, but had an award-winning career with many short stories and books. This book takes place in 4034 and crafts a whole new world among gas planets out there in space. The story involves a scholar on a mission to discover long-lost knowledge that will, if found, reshape the entire structure of the known universe. X+y=N (Nirvana)?
Math will remain scary for some people. It will also remain a basic part of our lives and education. These books help students of all ages, though some are particularly geared for certain ages and education levels, to learn about algebra. And, help break the code.