Students can get a helping hand mastering patterns, functions, and algebraic thinking on a tour of puzzling Web sites for the pre-algebra tyro.

Begin the tour with a couple of games that challenge pattern-recognition skills. Students stimulate their logical thinking and mathematical reasoning by manipulating rows of squares with Changing Colors. Students attempt to switch all but one square in a grid from white to black. After some exploration of the activity, your young mathematicians attempt to explain if the goal can be achieved, and if not, then why not.

Next, challenge students to play a pattern game that can be won. Students play against the computer by manipulating Squares and Circles. In addition to pattern recognition, game strategy, and algebraic thinking come into play in this fun and challenging interactive puzzle. A formula is also provided that explains how the outcome of the game is ultimately decided on the initial number of circles and squares.

Then, try some interactive visual games that are perfect warm-ups for multi-step problem-solving activities. Bridges is a complex tic-tack-toe game where students utilize cause-and-effect thinking to beat the computer.

Finally, students can take a crack at solving some puzzling word problems at Math Maven's Mysteries. They'll find several engaging math stories that challenge their pattern, function, and algebraic thinking skills. The mysteries are conveniently labeled with the math skill and the appropriate skill level.

As an added attraction, take your nascent conceptualists to the awesome world of Fractals at Coolmath 4 Kids. Depending on their level of math abilities, students may wish either to study these incredible pictures, generated from complex algebra problems, or explore how the fractal design's overall complexity origniates in simple hidden patterns.