Today we worked on order of operations and talked about how this is a “RULE” in the math world, just like driving on the right is a RULE in our world; without these rules we have chaos! I started by giving the students an example 2 + 5 x 3. I asked, “Who thinks they know this answer?” (Lots of hands went up). Students came up with 17, which half the class agreed with, and another answer of 21, which the other half agreed with (this was exactly what I had hoped!) Luckily, this occurred in all 5 classes. I asked for a person who believed 21 was the answer to come up and show us what they did: 2 + 5 = 7, and 7 x 3 = 21. Ah ha! Looks like it works. Then a student who thought 17 was the correct answer came up and showed us their method: 5 x 3 = 15. Then 2 + 15 = 17. Ah! Another correct statement. So who was right? I acted very confused, and asked for help from the class. Who was right? They both look like they could be correct to me!? I started to hear “PEMDAS!” “Multiplication first!” “Order of operations!” Even those that first thought 21, were now chanting along with the others. Perfect! This lead us into the concept of order of operations. We had lots of practice problems and I was so pleased to see the neat, and organized work of arriving at the simplified answer. Students then worked in “stations” around the room, simplifying 10 problems using the order of operations. I was so happy with how the activity went. ALL students got involved, and even if they did not finish all 10, they were working hard and doing well with the concept.

## About Gretchen Simmerson

Middle School math teacher living in Austin, Texas.