Placing an Order for Some Jazz

October 16, 2016 by Jay Maxwell

M any people claim to have a fear of mathematics. Personally, I have always found beauty in its structure and order. Algebra was easy for me because there was a set order of operations to follow in order to solve the equation. For students who had difficulty remembering the correct order of operations, the phrase “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally,” jogged their 174-22-23memory to perform what was in the parentheses first, then the exponential parts of the equation before moving to the multiplying and dividing stage and ending with adding and subtracting. Regardless of how complicated an equation looked in the textbook, by following the correct order of operations, a student eventually found the answer and wrote x = ___ .

Although it was always an exhilarating feeling to get the same answer as the one found in the back of the book after solving a problem, it was even more rewarding to grasp the concept that any problem could be solved by following the correct order of operations.

Except for careless errors, it was only when a student violated the order of operations that errors were made. Take a basic equation of x = 1 + 2*3. If a student violates the order of operations, he may believe the correct answer is nine by adding 1 + 2, then multiplying that result by 3. Clearly, algebra teaches a variety of skills, and one skill a person must clearly understand is the importance of order.

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