Order of operations: On convention and met-before acronyms

Abstract

In our exploration of the order of operations we focus on the following claim: “In the conventional order of operations, division should be performed before multiplication.” This initially surprising claim is based on the acronym BEDMAS, a popular mnemonic used in Canada to assist students in remembering the order of operations. The claim was voiced by a teacher and then presented for consideration to a class of prospective elementary school teachers. We investigate the participants’ understanding of the order of operations, focusing on the operations of multiplication and division. We report on participants’ ways of resolving a cognitive conflict faced as a result of relying on memorized mnemonics.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We also came across POMDAS and PODMAS in our searches, in which the “O” stands for “order.” We further learned that PEMDAS is often used in Francophone Canada.

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Correspondence to Rina Zazkis.

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Zazkis, R., Rouleau, A. Order of operations: On convention and met-before acronyms. Educ Stud Math 97, 143–162 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10649-017-9789-9

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Keywords

  • Order of operations
  • Cognitive conflict
  • Relearning
  • Met-before