Order of Operations- Do You Have a Genius IQ?

Contributor: Jonathan Heagy. Lesson ID: 12522

What is PEMDAS? It has to do with order of operations. No, it's not a sickness or waiting line in a hospital. It's the easy way to solve those messy equations with parentheses and exponents and stuff!


Middle School

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Skill Sharpener

Lesson Plan - Get It!


“89% of Facebook users cannot solve this problem! Do you have a genius IQ?”

You may have seen order of operations problems on your social media feed like the one below. Why don’t you give it a shot!

math meme

These problems ask seemingly simple questions that are often trickier than they look, notorious for starting comment section debates.

  • So, what was your answer? Was it 56, 50, or 1?
  • These are all common answers for this problem, but which is correct?

Learning how the order of operations works will help you get this type of problem correct and show off your genius IQ to all your friends!

Let’s say you’re faced with a gnarly-looking math problem:

12 x 4 ÷ (11 - 9 + 2)2 = ?

  • What should you do first: the addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division?
  • Then, what comes after that?
  • Do the parentheses and exponent change anything?

This is where the order of operations comes in! We can remember them with the acronym PEMDAS! If you'd like, you can use fun sayings, like, "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally," or "People Eat More Donuts After School" to remember PEMDAS!

Step 1: Parentheses — We always begin by solving what’s in the parentheses first.

Step 2: Exponents — Next, simplify any exponents in the equation.

Step 3: Multiplication | Division — Multiplication and division are the third step; but remember, they are equally important and should always be completed moving left-to-right in the equation.

Step 4: Addition | Subtraction — Addition and subtraction are your final step. They too are of equal importance, and like Step 3, these processes are done moving left-to-right in the equation.

Use these rules to solve that big problem from before.

12 x 4 ÷ (11 - 9 + 2)2

  • We have parentheses, so solve those first! Working left to right:
    •  (11 - 9 + 2) = 4

12 x 4 ÷ 42

  • Now, we work on exponents!
    • 42 = 16

12 x 4 ÷ 16

  • That's looking better; now we work from left-to-right again:
    • 12 x 4 = 48

48 ÷ 16

  • This is an easy one!
    • 48 ÷ 16 = 3

So, 12 x 4 ÷ (11 - 9 + 2)2 = 3

For more practice, download and print Order of Operations - Social Media Style! from Downloadable Resources in the right-hand sidebar! You can always check your answers with the provided Answer Key (Downloadable Resources) once you have given each problem a try.

Each of these problems was really found on Facebook or Instagram, so if you see them, you’ll be ready to show off your new skills!

To learn more about using PEMDAS, visit the land of Pi with TEDEd and learn How to defeat a dragon with math - Garth Sundem:


When you are done watching the video, come up with your own fun saying to help remember PEMDAS! My favorite is, "Poached Eggs May Demand Added Salt!"

  • What do you think is the trickiest part of using PEMDAS?

Continue on to the Got It? section to see if you can figure out where a problem-solver goofed!

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