Learn what the acronym PEMDAS stands for and find out how it can help you remember the order of operations and answer arithmetic and algebra problems correctly.

Jason Marshall, PhD,
Episode #105

order of operationsToday we’re going to talk about an infamous acronym in math that you may know (or at least have once known) as “PEMDAS.” What is PEMDAS you say? Well, I’m glad you asked: It’s the widely agreed upon standard “order of operations” that we use when solving arithmetic and algebra problems. Okay, but what does “order of operations” mean? Again, I’m glad you asked because that’s exactly what we’re going to find out today. So let’s stop asking questions and let’s start answering them!

What is the Order of Operations?

The order of operations in arithmetic and algebra is used to figure out which part of a problem to solve first. It’s easiest to see what this means with an example, so let’s take a look at the problem 2 + 3 x 4. Hmm, it looks like there are two ways to do this problem. The first is to do the addition first to get (2 + 3) x 4 = 5 x 4 = 20, and the second is to do the multiplications first to get 2 + (3 x 4) = 2 + 12 = 14.

Those two answers—20 and 14—are obviously different! Which means that one of them must be right and the other must be wrong…right? That’s correct. So how do you know which is which? That’s where the order of operations—which you can remember using the acronym PEMDAS—comes into play.

The order of operations is used to figure out which part of a problem to solve first.


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