Pin Me

Ideas for Teaching Third Graders the Order of Operations

written by: Amanda Smith • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 8/20/2012

It is important that students begin learning math skills like the order of operations early in their elementary education. These tips will help you introduce your third graders to the mathematics order of operations.

  • slide 1 of 3

    The Importance of Order

    Teaching the order of operations to third graders is important because it helps them learn math concepts as they go along, instead of having to go back and relearn how to do math problems later in their educational experience. The trick is to keep it simple. The steps for the order of operations are as follows:

    1. parentheses
    2. exponents
    3. multiplication
    4. division
    5. addition
    6. subtraction.

    They are usually taught using the mnemonic device "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally." However, most third graders have not advanced enough in their study of math to know how to use parentheses and exponents. Therefore, it is important to adapt your order of operations lesson to fit what your students already know and what they are currently learning.

  • slide 2 of 3

    Order of Operations Lesson Plan for Third Graders

    Beginning to teach the mathematics order of operations should come after students already have basic addition, subtraction, and multiplication skills. Make sure your students have mastered all these concepts before combining them.

    • In preparation for learning about the order of operations, review what your students already know about addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. You may want to have a pop quiz on multiplication tables, or come up with a quick and easy relay game that will help your students have fun and be better engaged in the material.
    • While teaching the lesson, be sure to do lots of problems on the board or overhead. Students need to visually see the steps being done so they can learn to process.
    • Use a different color chalk or marker to circle each operation. This will help your students begin to recognize each step.
    • Make sure to emphasize that students should multiply and divide from left to right. They should then add and subtract from left to right. Oftentimes, students learn the PEMDAS system and assume that they should multiply first and then divide. However, there are many problems that may have division as the first step so be sure to explain this.
  • slide 3 of 3

    Using PEMDAS with Third Graders and Other Ideas

    PEMDAS, which stands for Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiply, Divide, Add, Subtract, is used as a mnemonic device to help students remember the order of operations. Many students learn this in association with the phrase Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally, whereby the first letter of each word corresponds with the first letter of the operation. There are many great PEMDAS activities and lesson plans that you can use to help students learn the order of operations. You may need to modify the lesson in order to cater to the math level of your third grade students. You can create a fun order of operations bingo game using this lesson plan, adapting it for third graders, if necessary.

    Click here for a fun and creative way to use songs for the order of operations.

Teaching Tools for the Order of Operations

Need help finding creative ways to engage students in learning the Order or Operations? This series of articles provides helpful ideas and techniques to help make learning the Order of Operations fun.
  1. Ideas for Teaching Third Graders the Order of Operations
  2. Interesting Songs for Order of Operations
  3. A Great Song For Kids to learn Four Order of Operations
  4. Fun Bingo Games for Order of Operations
  5. Create an Order of Operations Math Poster Activity
More To Explore