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Order of Operations 5th Grade Lesson Ideas

written by: Margo Dill • edited by: Patricia Gable • updated: 1/5/2012

Order of operations is one of those math objectives that students need to learn and practice. If there are several different operations in a project, students can easily get confused. We all know if you work the wrong operation first, you get the wrong answer. Help your fifth graders!

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    Preview and Pretest

    Before beginning any order of operations 5th grade lessons, you can do a preview lesson, which can also be used as a pre-test to see if students remember any previous lessons on order of operations. Give students a worksheet with a few problems that test order of operations. Ask students to work these problems BEFORE any explanation on order of operations. Many students will work the problems left to right, regardless of the order of operations rules.

    Collect papers and grade. Most likely, many of your students will have made mistakes--they will have the correct answer if they were working the problems left to right, and there were no order of operations rules.

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    Taking Notes

    One of the first ways to teach students an order of operations 5th grade lesson is to have them take notes on what the order actually is. Write on the board: "Here are the order of operations: ( ), X, / (division), +, - . Then explain to students the order, and work a few problems together, practicing the order of operations for guided practice. For example, you can give students problems such as: (3 +5) x 2 + 5 = and ask them to explain what they would do first and why. Once students have taken notes, and they have practiced problems, you are ready to do some order of operations 5th grade activities.

    Pass back the pre-test the students did before you explained order of operations 5th grade rules. Ask students if they can guess why they found the wrong answer for many of the problems. Students should respond that they worked the problems left to right or with some other method besides using order of operations rules.

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    Order of Operations Club

    When beginning order of operations 5th grade lessons, you can start by giving students problems where two different operations are represented, and they have to solve the problem. To make sure they understand the order of operations, and they are not just working the problem from left to right, put addition first and then multiplication second or always put the parentheses last, so you know students are paying attention to the order of operations.

    Once students have mastered problems with two operations, then give them problems with three operations, then four, and so on. You can create an order of operations club. On a bulletin board display, make a banner that says "Order of Operations Club." Have four different sections--two operations, three operations, four operations, and five operations. Each student has a race car or some other object with his or her name on it for the bulletin board. When they master two operations, the race car with their name is put in that section. When they master problems with three operations, their race cars get moved to the next section and so on. You can create your own criteria for each student or as a whole class on what it means to "master" a section.