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7 Best Tips for Teaching the Order of Operations

Teaching the order of operations is a fundamental skill that students must learn in mathematics. Without an understanding of the order of operations, students will struggle with more advanced concepts in mathematics when they move through the grades.

Teaching the Order of Operations Rule (PEMDAS or GEMDAS)

The order of operations, also known as the PEMDAS rule, is a set of rules that determine the order in which mathematical operations should be performed. The PEDMAS rule stands for Parentheses, Exponents, Division, Multiplication, Addition, and Subtraction.

Using Real-Life Examples for Teaching the Order of Operations

When teaching the order of operations, it is important to start with the basics. Begin by explaining what the PEDMAS rule stands for and why it is important. Use real-life examples to demonstrate how the rule is used in everyday situations. One of the best real life situations for order of operations is budgeting.

I like to explain to students when planning a budget, you need to be able to perform mathematical operations in the correct order. For example, if you have a total income of $1,000 and want to save 20% of it, you would first multiply $1,000 by 0.20 to find the amount you need to save: $1,000 x 0.20 = $200. You would then subtract $200 from $1,000 to find the amount you have left for expenses: $1,000 – $200 = $800.

Examples of Mathematical Expressions

Once students have a basic understanding of the PEDMAS rule, introduce them to examples of mathematical expressions that require the rule to be applied. For example, consider the expression 3 + 5 x 2. Starting with simple problems will make it easier for them to go back if they make an error, and then progress to more difficult expressions.

Using a Variety of Examples and Practice Problems

It is important to use a variety of examples when teaching the order of operations. Use simple examples at first and gradually increase the complexity of the expressions. Encourage students to use mental math whenever possible, as this will help them to develop their problem-solving skills. In addition to using examples, it is also important to provide students with practice problems.

Games and Activities

One helpful way to teach the order of operations is to use games or activities. For example, create a game in which students have to solve a series of expressions using the PEDMAS rule. Alternatively, use a group activity in which students work together to solve a complex expression, with each student responsible for one or two operations. Click here to see all of the no prep resources I have for the order of operations.

Emphasizing the Importance of Following the Rule

When teaching the order of operations, it is important to emphasize the importance of following the rule. Remind students that the order of operations is not optional and that failing to follow the rule can lead to incorrect answers.

Encourage students to take their time when solving expressions and to double-check their work to make sure they followed the steps properly. This will relate back to real-life examples because if they calculate something wrong, especially with finances it could be a mistake that causes them to be short on money.

Assessing Students’ Understanding

Finally, it is important to assess students’ understanding of the PEDMAS rule. Use quizzes, tests, or other assessment methods to evaluate their knowledge and provide feedback on their progress. Encourage students to ask questions if they are unsure of anything, and be prepared to provide additional support or guidance as needed. This can be a difficult skill for them because it’s different than what they’re most likely used to, so it will require some reteaching with some students.

Teaching the order of operations is a critical skill that students must learn in mathematics. By using a variety of examples, practice problems, and games, students can develop a strong understanding of the PEDMAS rule and its importance in mathematics. By emphasizing the importance of following the rule and providing feedback on students’ work, teachers can help their students to develop strong problem-solving skills and achieve success in mathematics.