When a math equation or expression has more than one operation symbol, it’s very important that we have a specified order to solve it. Otherwise, we could give two people the same problem and get two different answers. Order of Operations is one of my favorite skills to teach!

I begin the unit with a ton of enthusiasm and get my students excited to learn the order, too. Your attitude when introducing any new topic can set the tone for your students.

I like to teach them about our good ol’ friend, Aunt Sally.

## How We Begin

- First, we talk about the order of operations using PEMDAS (Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally). This is when we use our first grouping symbol, parentheses ( ).
- After they’re comfortable with solving expressions with parentheses, I introduce the next symbol, brackets [ ]. Now, we use the term GEMDAS. Because we have more than one grouping symbol, we can’t just use the P for parentheses.
- Once they get used to solving problems with parentheses and brackets, I introduce the last grouping symbol, braces { }.

To remember the order of which grouping symbol goes first, I tell them that the grouping symbols start off really simple with just two curved lines hugging the expression inside – parentheses. Then, the symbol gets a little more detailed by adding corners – brackets. Finally, it gets even more detailed when it becomes the complicated shape of braces.

To organize their thinking and to ensure they’re following the order correctly, I always teach them to solve their expression by working their way down in a V. The V starts with the original expression at the top.

They underline the first operation that they should solve, write the answer below it, and then bring down all the parts of the problem that were on each side of it and haven’t been solved. They continue to underline each step one at a time until they get their final answer at the bottom.

This really helps me to assess students’ work and find their errors quickly. It also makes it easier for students to peer assess because they can easily find their classmate’s error.

Check out the video below to see an example of each type of order of operations problem.

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