Have you seen the video above before? It’s a classic and it makes me laugh every time. It’s funny, but it also highlights the many maths misconceptions floating around in society. And one of the biggest maths misconceptions that comes up time and time again is Order of Operations.

Here’s one of the latest BIMDAS memes being shared around on Facebook:

Ok, so which answer do you choose?

A: 320

B: 20

If you answered B, 20, then you have a great working knowledge of BIMDAS, or Orders of Operations.

Or perhaps you answered C, “Who cares?”.

Here’s why you should care and a few hints and tips to help you help your children learn the correct order of operations.

Maths is the greatest science we have, and as such is constructed on universal rules and laws. Understanding and applying these laws correctly is the first step in improving your numeracy.

The world we know today and couldn’t live without is built on mathematics and mathematical language. Computer Science is what makes our lives possible, and fun, and those who can understand its language are those who will have some of the most important skills for the future. The language of computers not only use BIMDAS, but all their logic structures are based on following order and universal operations.

Students struggle greatly with learning to use and apply the correct order of operations. Often they have been taught incorrectly and it takes a lot of effort to undo their learning. More often still, students don’t set out their thinking well on paper and thus struggle to see which calculations come first and what is left to calculate.

In the above example we do all the multiplications first. So we have:

16+16+4-16

We then have a “string” of addition and subtraction, and since they are partners of each other, we then work left to right, giving us an answer of 20.

Let’s take another example:

20-12÷4

Here the division comes before the subtraction and we have

20-3=17

What about 24÷6×2?

Do we do the division or the multiplication first? Most people will reply “Multiplication” because the letter comes first in BIMDAS. But just like addition and subtraction are partners, multiplication and division are also partners, or opposites/inverses of each other. So what we have here is another “string” and we work from left to right giving us an answer of 8.

Understanding and using order of operations correctly is an important foundation for future studies in maths, including the use of complex algebra. I know my students struggle with the correct use and can always use a bit more practice. I’m sure your child can too. Here’s a collection of resources that you might find useful in helping your child.

Worksheets at Math Drills

This site is great for when your child really needs extra practice. These sheets allow you to choose how many operations your child works with and whether they use just positive numbers, or also negative numbers (they will be using both by Year 8).

Dad’s Worksheets

This Dad over at Dad’s Worksheets is awesome! Such a great resource and I’m sure you’ll find these sheets really handy.

Manga High PEDMAS Blaster

Something I know my Year 7s love is playing the games on Manga High. If you’re considering signing up for a paid subscription, your child might enjoy this game (and they can trial the game for free):



Fun Math Games only at Mangahigh.com

What has your child struggled with this term? Are there any resources we can help you find? Let us know in the comments below.