Use BEDMAS TO Remember the Order of Operations

Math equations on the chalk board
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Although I'm a strong proponent of understanding the 'why' behind the math concept, there are acronyms that help individuals remember how to perform a set of procedure in math. BEDMAS or PEDMAS is one of them. BEDMAS is an acronym to help remember an order of operations in algebra basics. When you have math problems that require the use of different operations (multiplication, division, exponents, brackets, subtraction, addition) order is necessary and mathematicians have agreed on the BEDMAS/PEDMAS order. Each letter of BEDMAS refers to one part of the operation to be used. In math, there is an agreed upon set of procedures for the order in which your operations are performed. You will likely come up with a wrong answer if you perform calculations out of the order. When you follow the correct order, the answer will be correct. Remember to work from left to right as you use the BEDMAS order of operations. Each letter stands for: 

  • B - Brackets
  • E - Exponents
  • D - Division
  • M - Multiplication
  • A - Addition
  • S - Subtraction

You have probably also heard the acronym PEDMAS. Using PEDMAS, the order of operations is the same, however, the P merely means parentheses. In these references, parentheses, and brackets mean the same thing.

There are a couple of things to remember when applying the PEDMAS/BEDMAS order of operations. Brackets/Parenthesis always come first and exponents come second. When working with multiplication and division, you do whichever comes first as you work from left to right. If multiplication comes first, do it before dividing. The same holds true for addition and subtraction, when the subtraction comes first, subtract before you add. It may help to look at BEDMAS like this:

  • B - Brackets or Parenthesis
  • Exponents
  • Division or Multiplication
  • Addition or Subtraction

When you are working with parenthesis and there is more than one set of parenthesis, you will work with the inside set of parenthesis and work your way to the outside parenthesis.

Tricks to Remember PEDMAS

To remember PEDMAS or BEDMAS, the following sentences have been used:
Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.
Big Elephants Destroy Mice and Snails.
Pink Elephants Destroy Mice and Snails

You can make up your own sentence to help you remember the acronym and there certainly are more sentences out there to help you remember the order of operations. If you're creative, make up one that you'll remember.

If you are using a basic calculator to perform the calculations, remember to enter in the calculations as required by BEDMAS or PEDMAS. The more you practice using BEDMAS, the easier it gets.

Once you are comfortable with the understanding of the order of operations, try using a spreadsheet to calculate the order of operations. Spreadsheets offer a variety of formulas and computational opportunities when your calculator isn't handy.

Ultimately, it's important to understand the math behind the 'acronym'. Even if the acronym is helpful, understand how, why and when it works is more important.

Pronunciation: Bedmass or Pedmass

Also Known As: Order of operations in Algebra.

Alternate Spellings: BEDMAS or PEDMAS (Brackets vs Parenthesis)

Common Misspellings: Brackets versus parenthesis make the difference in the acronym BEDMAS vs PEDMAS

Examples Using BEDMAS for Order of Operations

Example 1
20 - [3 x (2 + 4)] Do the inside bracket (parenthesis) first.
= 20 - [3 x 6] Do the remaining bracket.
= 20 - 18 Do the subtraction.
= 2
Example 2
(6 - 3)2 - 2 x 4 Do the bracket (parenthesis)
= (3)2 - 2 x 4 Calculate the exponent.
= 9 - 2 x 4 Now multiply
= 9 - 8 Now subtract = 1
Example 3
= 22 – 3 × (10 – 6) Calculate inside the bracket (parenthesis).
= 22 – 3 × 4 Calculate the exponent.
= 4 - 3 x 4 Do the multiplication.
= 4 - 12 Do the subtraction.
= -8