Friday, August 17, 2012

#MyFavFriday August 17th (The PEMDAS game)

This is a game that I adapted from a presentation at an NCTM conference two years ago.  The presenter was Don Balka.

I'm always looking for ideas that will cover the last 5 minutes of class if needed.  I don't like giving the students down just feels like I'm not doing my job.  Here is one of my favorite activities to do when there are a few minutes of class left before the bell rings.

Start by writing a blank equation on the board and asking the students to copy this equation onto their papers.

For example:  ____ ( _____ + ______) - _____ * ______

Ask a student for a target number.  Let's say he picks 10.

Here is the equation:  ____ ( _____ + ______) - _____ * ______ = 10

I use the random integer generator on my calculator to pick the numbers.  In this case there are five blanks.

The students must write the number once it is generated and they many not change it's location.  So, the  game goes like this:  I generate a number, they write it in a blank, I generate a number, they write it in a blank, blah, blah, blah.  This continues until all the blanks are filled in.  The student(s) who is the closest to the target number wins.

When I first introduce this game I generate integers from 0 to 9.  Once they understand the rules I move to more complex equations and/or generate numbers from -9 to 9.

Even though the concept of PEMDAS might be easy for more advanced students, they still like to play the game.  The drama of the last number for some students is what makes the game.  Enjoy!!


I wrote this post a few days ago and then watched this video on The Teaching Channel.
It is geared for a 2nd grade classroom, but it completely relates to my PEMDAS game.

I like the idea of having a "trash can" for the PEMDAS game.  So, when I give the example equation above, I will now generate 6 random numbers rather than 5 and the students can throw out one number they don't want to use.


  1. I LOVE this idea and I will definitely be stealing and using it this year!

  2. FABULOUS!! Thank you so much! My sixth graders will LOVE this idea.
    Thanks also for writing about The Teaching Channel. I didn't know about this but I will be checking this out this week before I head back to school.

  3. Love this idea! Not sure how my lower level class will respond to it but it is worth a shot!