The aim of the study is to investigate and compare approaches to algebra in the Estonian, Finnish, and Swedish national core curricula (Grades 1–9). Despite the similarities in the school systems of these neighboring countries, the analysis reveals three quite different curricular approaches. The Estonian approach shows influences of the Russian Davydov School. The Finnish approach to some extent resembles the traditional one whereby algebra is addressed first at the lower secondary level and then in a formal manner. However, there are also characteristics typical of the functional view, which dominates the Swedish curriculum. Here, as opposed to the documents from the other two countries, a transition to more formal sophisticated methods at the secondary level is not visible at all. We discuss the results in relation to earlier research and students’ different learning outcomes in light of international evaluations.