The 10 Best Algebra Textbooks

Updated June 28, 2017 by Brett Dvoretz

10 Best Algebra Textbooks
Best High-End

Best Mid-Range

Best Inexpensive

We spent 43 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Let's face it, math isn't everyone's favorite subject and not many of us are geniuses at it, but we all need to get through algebra class. Whether you're a concerned parent, struggling high schooler, or imminent college student, we've included helpful textbooks in this selection for everything from basic to advanced levels. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best algebra textbook on Amazon.

10. Introduction to Linear Algebra

Introduction to Linear Algebra is a basic option with easy to understand correlative challenge and review questions. It has been highly praised among teachers in high schools and colleges because of the way it breaks down difficult concepts in a simple manner.
  • comes with website support
  • chapters begin with a short overview
  • contains a few typos
Publisher CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PR
Model n/a
Weight 3.1 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

9. Linear Algebra and its Applications

Linear Algebra and its Applications is a balance of function and theory for a complete understanding of this difficult subject. It's an excellent base for undergraduate math students and beneficial to graduate students for reviewing.
  • gradually develops skills
  • lacks comprehensive illustrations
  • answer key for odd problems only
Publisher Linear Algebra and its
Model n/a
Weight 2.1 pounds
Rating 3.5 / 5.0

8. College Algebra

College Algebra is well-laid out for a good general overview, without getting overly advanced. It's accompanied by a MyMathLab online course and has review exercises throughout to assist in the learning process and prepare students for exams.
  • includes study guides
  • makes a great reference book
  • online tutorial is non-transferable
Publisher College Algebra
Model n/a
Weight 3.5 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

7. Algebra 2 Common Core

Algebra 2 Common Core is designed for students in 10th or 11th grade. It has a nice clean layout with minimal pictures to distract you, though this can make it difficult for students who prefer a visual learning experience.
  • well-reviewed by parents
  • uses real-life examples
  • builds upon algebra 1 concepts
Publisher Algebra 2 Common Core
Model n/a
Weight 5.5 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

6. Introductory and Intermediate Algebra

Introductory and Intermediate Algebra gives a great overview of the basics and then goes more in-depth, with CDs and online materials to supplement the learning experience. It's well-organized with thorough explanations and examples.
  • contains a lot of practice problems
  • can personalize your study plan
  • easy to follow along
Publisher Simon & Schuster Childr
Model n/a
Weight 12.6 ounces
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

5. No-Nonsense

No-Nonsense reviews pre-algebra, expands beyond basic knowledge, and allows students to easily work their way up to more advanced concepts. The lessons are concise and simple with clear explanations to facilitate independent learning.
  • has a logical flow
  • comprehensive glossary of terms
  • good for those who find math hard
Publisher STL Distributors
Model n/a
Weight 1.7 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

4. McGraw Hill Algebra 1

McGraw Hill Algebra 1 provides comprehensive coverage of the subject, introduces concepts and skills, and offers opportunities to practice and reinforce what has already been learned. It's great for homeschooling, tutoring and the classroom.
  • uses interactive resources
  • detailed examples of formulas
  • part of the common core curriculum
Publisher Pearson Prentice Hall
Model n/a
Weight 5.3 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

3. Algebra for College Students

Algebra for College Students covers the basic building blocks, such as variables and functions, and gradually leads up to the more advanced levels. The author uses unique examples to illustrate the importance of algebra in real life, like building the Pyramids.
  • more engaging than many other texts
  • explanations are very clear
  • helps foster an interest in math
Publisher Algebra for College Stu
Model n/a
Weight 4.2 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

2. Algebra Survival Guide

Former middle and high school teacher, Josh Rappaport's enjoyable Algebra Survival Guide might not technically be a textbook, but it definitely deserves a spot on this list. It is like having your very own tutor and does a great job of making learning fun.
  • teaches a lot of unique tricks
  • helps students master word problems
  • provides a complete answer key
Publisher Singing Turtle Press
Model n/a
Weight 2 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

1. Algebra and Trigonometry

Robert F. Blitzer, the author of Null Pearson Education's Algebra and Trigonometry, uses topics like inflation, student loan debt, and the average sleeping hours of college-aged students to keep learners interested in the concepts being taught.
  • reviews prerequisite material
  • builds foundational skills
  • includes videos for visual learners
Publisher Algebra and Trigonometr
Model n/a
Weight 12.6 ounces
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

A Lesson In Mathematics

Few subjects in school send students into a state of cross-eyes confusion more readily than mathematics. Even among students who naturally excel at it, who are somehow more attuned to the principals of the mathematical world, there can be a resistance to the subject.

I've had some good conversations with mathematician friends of mine, as well as a couple current math teachers, about why so many students balk at math more than other classes. I expected most of them to tell me that math is just harder to learn, or that the majority of human brains simply aren't built to wrap themselves around concepts beyond a certain level.

To my surprise, the bulk of the conversations I had shared a common thread. It's not that higher levels of math are necessarily more difficult to learn; most of the people I talked to said that certain higher levels of math are actually harder to teach.

That may seem like a matter of semantics, but take a look at how we physically interact with our world using math. Learning addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division through elementary school, we find ourselves applying what we learn on a near daily basis. Going to the store for snacks, saving up our allowance for a new video game–everything about this mathematical experience is tangible.

It's when we get into the intangibles that things get hairy. Most school textbooks covering algebra or geometry spend 90% of their pages explaining concepts and formulas as dryly as possible, and finish off each chapter with a petty attempt at exemplifying a scenario in which you might actually apply a given lesson.

That's all well and good for the one student in a thousand who goes on to become an architect, but there's no hook in it for the rest of us. When I got to college, after sloughing through years of unintelligible, inapplicable math textbooks, I took a practical physics class, and I realized what all math text books needed, which is something these algebra books have in varying degrees: a sense of wonder.

The seven books on our list all combine centuries worth of algebraic discovery into a few hundred pages of lessons, quizzes, and examples, but in recent years–likely in response to this sense among math teachers that there was something missing from their books–math texts have been imbued with a greater sense of magic, with the idea that numbers have meanings and implications we can only begin to grasp.

A Method To Your Mathness

As important as I think a sense of mystery is to the education of young mathematical minds, you may completely disagree. And that's fine. Like I said, there are varying degrees of wonder spread through the books on our list, so you can go with the driest among them if that suits your style.

After all, each of us learns in slightly different ways. I know that I need my sense of suspicion and curiosity stimulated for my brain to open up to new information. I suspect that this is true of most brains, though I'm sure some shut down as soon as things get philosophical.

As you read up on the descriptions offered for each of the algebra textbooks on our list, it'd be worth keeping in mind your personal learning style. If you're investigating these books as teaching tools, then a close look at your teaching style will be just as useful.

When I taught English for a year at my old high school before heading to graduate school, I actually preferred the drier texts to the more evocative ones. I found that I flew so far off the handle imaginatively that if I had a textbook that did the same, we'd never get anything done. I used a more conservative packet of materials to ground my teaching insanity.

You might be just the opposite, preferring a text that can elevate your lessons to new heights. Whatever your approach, there's a book on this list that'll fit the mold. Not all of the algebra texts on this list approach the same educational levels, either, so make sure that fit is suited to the height you wish to teach or to attain.

Ages Of Algebra

It's a comfortable thing for westerners to attribute all of the great historical achievements of mankind to Greek and Roman thinkers, but the roots of algebra and other mathematical works reache back much farther than that.

Archeologists and math historians have dated the oldest texts known to man that elucidate algebraic concepts to sometime between 2000 and 1500 BCE. These texts–the Babylonian Plimpton 322 tablet and the Egyptian Rhind papyrus–both put forth models of linear equations.

The work of these ancient mathematicians spread to the critical thinkers of Greek antiquity, whose work then spread to the Persian empire. By the time the Persian mathematicians made their own great strides in the art, they'd already distributed the thought eastward and into India and China. At the height of the Persian empire, western Europe received a new taste of evolved algebra up through Spain.

All this rich history covering centuries of exploration, experimentation, and expression, all so sleepy students could have the luxury of checking out in the middle of math class and thinking, instead, about their crush sitting across the classroom.



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Last updated on June 28, 2017 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as behind the computer screen, Brett can either be found hacking furiously away at the keyboard or perhaps enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He hopes to one day become a modern day renaissance man.


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