Everything You Need to Know to Pass Math Class: Order of Operations

angry math symbolsYes, in continuing this wildly popular series (so popular, in fact, that these posts receive less comments than a normal post, not to mention result in a 4,000% increase in death threats, from 0 on average to 0 after posting these*), it’s about time I covered math class.

*If you don’t understand this, then you’ll probably need more than this one post to help you with your math skills.

One of the basic things you need in math is a good understanding of the order of operations. That way, when presented with an equation like “(2(4+x-3×2)/(4*5+21-3)5)+ 3+8!-(7×3/6xy)*2xyz+3abcdefgh,” you don’t start crying immediately. Instead, you can calmly remind yourself that there’s an order of operations for things like this, and then start crying, because you don’t remember what that order is.

So, a good tip when it comes to remembering the order of operations (definition of which is: the operations’ order) is to remember PEMDAS. PEMDAS, like most words in all capitals, such as US, IMF, FBI, and ICC, is an acronym.

(SCUBA is the exception. I mean, sure, people might try to tell you it is an acronym, but you can go SCUBA diving. And there is SCUBA equipment and certification. You can be a SCUBA diver. Don’t try to tell me that you can be an IMF diver, or go FBI diving.)

PEMDAS stands for “People Entertaining Mollusks by Drawing Amazonian Slugs.” As you can see, this is something that is handy to remember if you are ever in a situation where you need to entertain mollusks. Such as when you are in the deep, halfway-submerged-in-the-ocean dungeon you will be sent to because you didn’t know the order of operations.

Seriously, though, this tells you nothing about the order of operations. Therefore, I’ve listed it here for you, in what I like to call math notation: ()2*/+-. If that looks like a text emoticon, that’s because it is, coincidentally, the symbol for an oval-headed person with a large hoop earring and bruised neck, wearing a shirt slung over one shoulder who has only one leg (If you don’t see it, don’t worry. Many people don’t, at first. So, turn your head sideways. Now you see it, obviously).

Now that you know what the order of operations is, you need to know when to actually use this knowledge. After all, not all of your math problems will look exactly like the example I provided above. Most, if not all of them, will be harder, and may or may not include the whole alphabet.

However, I’ve got a good rule of thumb for you to follow. When you see a ‘(‘ or ‘)’, ask yourself: is your math teacher plagiarizing from High School Humor Blog? (I’m working on this parentheses addiction, though). (Except instances like that last bit show you what an uphill battle parentheses rehab can be).

Seriously, though, in this instance you should ask yourself if you need to refer to the order of operations. If the answer is yes, then don’t use them. If the answer is no, use them. This stems from the basic, accepted logic that most teens are wrong 90% of the time, when it comes to math, so doing the opposite of what you’d normally do means that you’ll be right 90% of the time.

If, after all of these tests, you are going to use the order of operations, proceed with caution. Most teens will make some sort of careless mistake, such as adding when they were supposed to take the delineated derived square root of the cosine.

The only way to make sure you don’t make any of these mistakes is to get the answer without working through the problem. If you can’t pick the answer out of thin air, or read your classmates’ minds, or guess, then I have bad news: you will probably still get the answer wrong.

So, please remember: even though you may have memorized the order of operations so well that you can recite them in your dreams in your dreams in your dreams (one word: mathception), you will, by nature of being a teen, still get the answer wrong.

Thus, when you get invariably tossed in the dungeon for getting a bad score, it’s important to remember that it’s Amazonian, not African, slugs that Mollusks like to see drawn. Because otherwise, you might get eaten alive by oysters. And a slimier death does not exist.

Last year, still in the spirit of forecasting for classes, we offered advice in “The Application Guaranteed to Get you In.” In a question-and-answer format, we provide the right answers to use on your class applications, including which organs to offer as bribes to get into the class.

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