Ordering Operations with ParenthesesYou already know about symbols for basic operations such as +, -, *, and /. As we mentioned, this section is going to introduce two new symbols to your math vocabulary. Parentheses "( )" are used in English to set aside a comment or an idea (like this). In math, parentheses set aside a few terms and operations. The whole point of parentheses is to say, "Do this first!" Sometimes they might be very important to the order of operations and your answer totally depends on them. Sometimes they are there to help you see where to start, but don't play a big role in how you come up with the solution. Let's take a look at a few ways parentheses might be used...
(1 + 2) + 3 = 3 + 3 = 6
3 + (9 x 2) = 3 + 18 = 21
(3 * 6) + (5 - 2) = 18 + 3 = 21
(3 + 4 + 5 + (4 x 3) - 2 - 3) = 19
(2 * 3) - (4 / 2) + (3 * 4) = 6 - 2 + 12 = 16
Multiplication and DivisionWe've introduced you to parentheses. You need to do the math inside of parentheses first. Once you get all the inside stuff out of the way, you can move to the operations in the open areas. Even when inside the parentheses, the first operations that need to be completed are multiplication and division. If you see "3 + 5 x 6", you must do the "5 x 6" part of the problem first and then add the three (3) to your product. The same would be true for division. A problem like "16 - 4 ÷ 2" would have two steps. The division comes first with an answer of 2. The second step would have you subtracting 2 from 16.
Addition and SubtractionWhen you have a variety of operations, the last steps are addition and subtraction. We told you most of the story in the previous paragraph. Start with the parentheses, move to the multiplication and division, and finish off with the addition and subtraction.
3 x 2 x 5 + 5 x 6 + (11 - 3) = ?
Step 1: Parentheses: 3 x 2 x 5 + 5 x 6 + (8) = ?
Step 2: Multiplication and Division: 30 + 30 + (8) = ?
Step 3: Addition and Subtraction: 30 + 30 + 8 = 68
Bigger than Arithmetic OperationsWe're here to help you with the basics. As you move forward with math, you will learn about other operations and symbols. Each one plays a specific role in solving any equation. There are symbols called "brackets" that are related to parentheses. They look like this: [ ]. They work the same way, but come before parentheses in the order. You will also discover square roots and other roots (√). They break apart larger numbers into smaller factors. The biggest thing you will find in math is the variable. Variables are symbols for unknown amounts. In many cases, you will be finding out the value of variables and not even solving equations. You will solve for a variable such as "x". We'll save that excitement for later when you learn about algebra.
Useful Reference MaterialsWikipedia: