Got to Teach!: Fun with Order of Operations

Fun with Order of Operations

Order of OperationsAfter teaching fifth-grade math three times a day for several years I got pretty good at packing every
minute of my instructional time.  However, there were those day when I would finish a lesson, look up at the clock only to realized that I still had 10 minutes with these kids!!!  Sending them back to their homeroom wasn't an option, so I learned to find some quick and easy activities that I could bust out when my timing was off.

One activity that my students really enjoyed was an impromptu game of "Order of Operations Riddles." This essentially consisted of me having them write down 3 to 4 numbers on their white boards with plenty of space in-between them.  They would then grab 6-8 post-its and writing one of the following on each: +, -, ×÷, (, ), 2, 3 (the last two are exponents).  I would then write an answer on the board and they would have to scramble to arrange their post-its around the numbers on their white boards to make an equation that equaled the number on the board.

I would start off with a problem that just contained operations (+, -, ×, ÷), then add the parentheses, and finally the exponents.  When the exponents were added I would let them work in pairs because the activity would get really challenging at that point.

My students couldn't get enough of this!  They even made their own "riddles" to have their classmates solve.  I loved it because it removed the procedural aspect from Order of Operations and required students to really process the concepts beyond the "robotic" PEMDAS application.

If you would like to try this activity in your class, I made a version that you can download for free! I have included detailed instructions, 12 different riddles, and an answer key.  You can grab it {HERE}

If you're looking for more hands-on activities for Order of Operations, check out my Time to Tile: Order of Operations!


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