Find simple ideas for kids to practice using order of operations with this set of free order of operations games! Includes puzzles & a ‘fix the mistakes’ page.
Do your students feel confident evaluating expressions using and following order of operations? Or do they just evaluate left to right? As teachers, we know how important it is for kids to remember and correctly follow this order, to ensure we all get the same solution. But kids often need a a lot of practice, review and reinforcement to not only remember the order, but see why the order matters and how it makes a difference. This free set of games includes printable puzzles and a ‘wacky parentheses’ page to help kids see how parentheses can change the problem. Grab it free below!
Order of Operations: Why it Matters
We follow a standard order of operations so that given a string of operations, we will all get the same solution.
If presented with this expression, for example: 8 + 6 x 3
If you add 8 + 6 and then multiply by 3, you get 42.
But if you multiply 6 x 3 first and then add 8, you get 26.
So who’s right??
Well, following order of operations, multiplication comes first. So the correct solution is 26. But if we have no specified order, we’d never know what was meant by that expression because it is ambiguous.
Understanding Order of Operations:
In case you need a refresher, here’s the standard order of operations, assuming all these elements are present in a given expression:
- Evaluate anything inside a parentheses (note-sometimes this is not actually necessary, but it makes it easier for students to begin here so there are not mistakes made later)
- Evaluate any exponents
- Evaluate any multiplication and division in the expression, going from left to right (so, if there are multiple multiplication operations, just start by going left to right, one at a time)
- Lastly, evaluate all addition and subtraction, again going from left to right
Order of Operations Puzzles:
Once your students understand the order, it really just takes lots and lots of practice to remember and feel comfortable with it! So I’m here to help.
Included in the free download below you’ll find a set of printable puzzles. These are a fun and different way for kids to practice evaluating using order of operations.
Each puzzle includes 2 puzzle pieces. To use them, kids evaluate the expression on one of the puzzle pieces and then find the matching puzzle piece with the solution.
This download includes 12 printable puzzles.
To prep them, print all the pages of puzzles on card stock paper. This is a thicker, sturdier paper that makes it easier to use the puzzles.
You might also want to laminate them, adding durability so you can use these puzzles year after year.
Once the puzzles are printed (and possibly laminated), cut out each puzzle, and then cut each puzzle into two pieces.
Then mix up all the pieces and hand them out to your students!
To easily create an answer key, print the puzzles one more time, printing 4 pages per page. This will shrink the puzzles to fit them all on one page.
Your students can then compare their puzzles to this ‘answer key’ after they’ve matched them all.
Wacky Parentheses Game:
When your students are ready for a new challenge, try the simple, printable page ‘Wacky Parentheses.’
On each equation, the parentheses are either missing or in the wrong place.
To fix this, students need to either move or add parentheses to the right place so that the equation is actually true.
For example, in the first equation, there are no parentheses. So to fix this, add parentheses around 4 and 12. Then the equation is true!
In the second equation, the parentheses are in the wrong place, so they need to be moved in order to make the equation true.
I hope this helps to show your students why parentheses are important and following order of operations matters.
Order of Operations Error Analysis:
If your students are ready for more of a challenge, grab this set of error analysis challenges. These will help highlight common mistakes when evaluating, and help reinforce what your students have learned.
I hope these fun challenges provide some unique practice with order of operations!
To grab this set of games, click the link below to go to my shop. And if you want even more ideas, check out the ‘additional resources’ links below!
Even MORE Ideas to Practice Order of Operations:
- Order of operations missing number puzzles (digital games)
- Order of operations error analysis (free sample)
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