Order of operations and "bubbles"

Or you could call it a "cloud" or "balloon", instead of a "bubble". Anyhow, the idea is simple: in a given math problem with many operations, have the child encircle in a bubble/cloud/balloon the operation to be done first. He/she can use colored pencils or crayons for more fun.

I just had this idea when my 2nd daughter was studying order of operations in addition and subtraction... that is, problems with many additions and subtractions, including parenthesis, things like

100 + 20 − (50 + 10)

20 − 8 − 6    vs.   20 − (8 − 6)

(Those are found in Math Mammoth grade 3 curriculum.)

So what we did was write some of the problems from the book on the whiteboard and she "bubbled" or drew bubbles around the operation to be done first. Well, her bubbles look like ovals, but she was thinking of them as bubbles--and that made it fun for her!

order of operations and bubbles
Click to enlarge

Then we did another fun thing, which is that she made me a difficult math problem with lots of additions and subtractions. It's seen in the bottom on the board. Then I solved it...  and the answer turned out negative! Making problems for mom is always fun for little ones.

The same idea will of course work if you are dealing with multiplication and division as well.


Tanya Wade said…
Hi and so excited about finding your blog....i homeschool and any help with math ideas is always grateful
Denise said…
I love the bubbles! It's a great way to focus a student's attention on the small step that needs to be done next, rather than leaving her overwhelmed with the whole, big equation at once.
Erik said…
So easy but so efficient to draw colored circles around the operations. I will use this in my lessons.

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