## ABSTRACT

This chapter suggests that signed numbers and their operations belong in early grades. If carefully introduced, signed numbers can make fundamental algebraic concepts such as equality and function accessible to young students. The chapter identifies some of the problems related to the learning of signed numbers. Then it shows how algebraic contexts can facilitate the learning of this problematic topic. The chapter looks at how signed numbers provide a supportive context for learning algebra. It suggests that there is an interdependent relationship between algebra and signed number operations. Extensive practice with addition and subtraction leads children to develop certain primitive conceptions of equality. The chapter argues that algebra provides a helpful context for introducing signed numbers. It also argues that signed number tasks can contribute to the understanding of algebraic concepts. Signed numbers are positive and negative numbers. They refer to integers, not merely the natural numbers. They refer to rational numbers, not merely the nonnegative rational numbers.