Use BEDMAS to Remember the Order of Operations

Math equations on the chalk board
Jeffrey Coolidge / Getty Images

There are acronyms that help individuals remember how to perform a set of procedure in math. BEDMAS (otherwise known as PEMDAS) 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/PEMDAS 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 PEMDAS. Using PEMDAS, 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 PEMDAS/BEDMAS order of operations. Brackets/Parentheses 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:

  • Brackets (or Parentheses)
  • Exponents
  • Division or Multiplication
  • Addition or Subtraction

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

Tricks to Remember PEMDAS

To remember PEMDAS 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 PEMDAS. 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 Pemdass
  • Also Known As: Order of operations in Algebra.
  • Alternate Spellings: BEDMAS or PEMDAS (Brackets vs Parentheses)
  • Common Misspellings: Brackets versus parentheses make the difference in the acronym BEDMAS vs PEMDAS

Examples Using BEDMAS for Order of Operations

Example 1

20 - [3 x (2 + 4)] Do the inside bracket (parentheses) 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 (parentheses)
= (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 (parentheses).
= 22 – 3 × 4 Calculate the exponent.
= 4 - 3 x 4 Do the multiplication.
= 4 - 12 Do the subtraction.
= -8