Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Room 202's Order of Operations Arsenal

If you are a fifth grade teacher in Philadelphia like me, you'll be covering order of operations in math during the third marking period. We are knee deep in PEMDAS, as I speak. Much to my delight, most of the kids have grasped the skills and concepts necessary to:

Interpret and evaluate numerical expressions using order of operations.

Analyze and complete calculations by applying the order of operations.

Use multiple grouping symbols (parentheses, brackets, or braces) in numerical expressions, and evaluate expressions containing these symbols. (THIS ONE ACTUALLY NEEDS A LITTLE MORE WORK.)

Use order of operations rules to calculate problems that include two or more operations.

(Even my 10 students with I.E.P.'s are experiencing relative success, which is a really beautiful thing!)

I anticipated this concept was going to be challenging for my students, so I pulled out all the stops when I planned this week's math lessons. I have a SMART Notebook lesson, a PEMDAS rap video,  a great anchor chart that we copied in our Interactive Math Notebooks, and a couple of really cool online games to round out my instructional arsenal for order of operations.

My kids LOVE the video. We've watched it multiple times at their request. They use the excuse that each student who has been absent needs to see it upon their return to class. I actually don't mind, because I think it's pretty cute, too. Here's THE LINK. (Don't say I didn't warn you when you are singing, "Oh, oh, oh, order of operations..." for a few days after watching it.)

I make a big fuss out of the PEMDAS mnemonic when we start order of operations. Then, I tell the kids they are actually going to MEET Aunt Sally. This usually creates just the right amount of commotion to get everybody tuned in to learn the new material. Once they've watched the video and met "Aunt Sally", I've got them hooked.

There are tons of anchor charts for PEMDAS, but I have one I prefer over all the others. It looks like this:

(I'd like to credit the site where I originally found this chart, but the identifying information is too blurry to read, and I haven't come across it again in my recent Google searches.) I recopied the graphic on chart paper and added brief explanations for each step of the algorithm, and I have the chart displayed all year. (A picture of my version of the chart will follow once I am back in class tomorrow.) I also had the kids copy the anchor chart into our new Interactive Math Notebooks this year.

TRUE STORY- We were copying the PEMDAS poster into our notebooks on Tuesday, and one of my struggling math students looked up and asked, "We can take this book with us to middle school with us next year, right?" I quickly replied, "Of course, you can." The boy had no idea he had just melted my heart!

The SMART Notebook lesson we used for order of operations is from an awesome site where I get a lot of great lessons that are aligned to the Everyday Math materials we use in Philadelphia. If you are using Everyday Math and you teach fifth grade, you HAVE to check out Lesson 7.5 is the one we used on Monday.

I modified the opening slide of Yates's lesson to include a link to the PEMDAS rap and a copy of the problem from the video. I love to start my order of operations instruction with a really complex expression for the kids to solve on their slates. Once they've come up with at least 10 different answers to the problem, I have a perfect segue into why order of operations is so important.

Another little gem I want to share with you is an online game that I came across in my exhaustive search for resources to help my students master order of operations. It is called EXPLORING ORDER OF OPERATIONS. The kids really enjoyed playing this game on the SMARTBoard, and I liked that it forced them to focus on the order that operations needed to be completed in and wouldn't let them move on until they had figured out the correct sequence.

I'm going to wrap this post up with a strategy suggestion. I like to use something we call "Pass the Pen" in math class. It works beautifully with order of operations, and I use it with other longer algorithms like partial quotients and even multi-step word problems. One child starts the problem on the board and only completes the first step. He or she hands the pen off to a volunteer who wants to complete the next step of the problem. This goes on until the problem is complete. This is a great tool for collecting observational data on your students.

I hope you'll take advantage of some of the resources and suggestions I've discussed here. If you need practice problems check out and click the Order of Operations tab at the top. You can really differentiate the practice in your classroom with the different levels of worksheets the site offers.

I'd love to hear how it goes if you use any of these resources in your classroom. Please comment below with your success stories (or your struggles).

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