Does PEMDAS Freak You Out?

Remember the Order of Operations? How about PEMDAS?

Just seeing those letters might send your blood pressure up.

But you can breathe easy now. Because, as you likely suspected all along, it’s wrong.

Check out this video by the YouTube guys at Minute Physics.

My favorite quote is

Focusing on the order of operations can lead to ambiguity and obscures the real, underlying, and often beautiful mathematics.

And I laughed out loud when I got to 2:23 in the video – the “real” order of operations:

  1. Use Parenthesis
  2. Learn Math
  3. Be Free!

What are your thoughts on this? Have your kids reached the age where they’re learning it, around 4th or 5th grade?

What will happen in your house if you tried the “Pedantic Order of Operations” shown?

Share your thoughts in the comments or in the Facebook Group. And share with your friends on Twitter and Facebook too!

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2 Responses to Does PEMDAS Freak You Out?

  1. As a 5th grade math teacher, I want to make sure that I prepare my students for higher level math courses in middle school, high school, college and beyond. I feel that your site is giving me a view of what my students need to know in order to be prepared for those higher levels. I enjoyed watching this video, and much of it makes sense. The portion in the video when he mentions 3/4 = 3 x 1/4 will really help me explain to my fifth grade students why the product of 3 x .25 is less than one of the multiplicands. They understand using area models and by using repeated addition. But they are still asking why it’s smaller. I guess I can show them that even though we are multiplying, we are also dividing. I am nervous that this will open another can of whys? Any tips you have to share would be greatly appreciated! Thank you for great information and resources!

    • Opening a can of whys is like opening a can of Hershey’s chocolate – nothing wrong with it until you get too much. (Remember when Hershey’s actually packaged their chocolate syrup in cans?)

      I like to tell students that there’s no such thing as dividing (just like there’s no such thing a subtraction). Those two are merely the “undoing” of multiplication and addition.

      In fact the product of 3 and .25 is the product of 3 and 1/4. And recalling the “flip and multiply” thing for dividing fractions, we can do this backwards:

      3 x 1/4
      3 ÷ 4/1
      3 ÷ 4

      Hope this helps. Thanks for your comments and questions!

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