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1.4: Evaluate Numerical and Variable Expressions Using the Order of Operations

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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Let’s Think About It

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Jeb enters his name into a draw to win a handheld game system from his local electronics megastore. A week later he visits the store for the draw and his name is picked! In order to claim the prize, he must correctly answer a skill testing question.

The question is:

45[30(4×23)]

Jeb has to answer the skill testing question without the use of technology. How can Jeb answer this question correctly to claim the prize?

In this concept, you will learn to use the order of operations to solve numerical and variable expressions.

Guidance

In mathematics, you will often hear the word evaluate. Before you begin, it is important for you to understand what the word evaluate means. When you evaluate a mathematical sentence, you figure out the value of the number sentence. Often times you think of evaluating as solving, and it can be that, but more specifically, evaluating is figuring out the value of a sentence.

In mathematics, you can evaluate different types of number sentences. Sometimes you will be working with equations and other times you will be working with expressions. First you need to know the difference between an equation and an expression.

An equation is a statement that two mathematical expressions have the same value. An equation has an equal sign such that the quantity on the left side of the equal sign is equal to the quantity on the right side of the equal sign. This means both sides of the equation stand for the same number.5x=30is an equation. It states that 5x and 30 have the same value.

An expression is a general term in mathematics for a group of numbers, symbols and variables representing numbers and operations. You evaluate an expression to figure out the value of the mathematical statement itself, you are not trying to make one side equal another, as with an equation.3a2b+8 is an expression. There is no equal sign.

Let’s start with an example of evaluating expressions.

Two eighth grade math students evaluated the expression 2+3×4÷2. Macy’s answer was ten and Cole’s answer was eight. The students you are asked to write their step by step solutions on the board.

Macy‘s Solution: 

=2+3×4÷2=5×4÷2=20÷2=10

Cole‘s Solution:

=2+3×4÷2=2+12÷2=2+6=8

It appears that each student performed the indicated operations in different orders. Of course, there cannot be two correct solutions for the same expression. There is actually a specific order in which operations must be performed.

The order of operations is a rule that tells you which operation you need to perform and the order in which it must be done to achieve the correct answer. The order of operations is often called PEMDAS and each of the letters represents one part of the rule. P: parenthesis and grouping symbols; E: exponents; M: multiplication; D: division; A: addition; S: subtraction. MD are performed in the order they appear in the expression from left to right. AS are performed in the order they appear in the expression from left to right.

Looking at the two solutions for evaluating the expression 2+3×4÷2 , who has the correct answer?

Macy

First:2+3=5Next:5×4=20Then:20÷2=10

Cole

First:3×4=12Next:12÷2=6Then:6+2=8

Macy evaluated the expression by performing the addition, multiplication and division. Cole performed the multiplication, division and addition. Macy simply completed the operations as they appeared from left to right. Cole completed the multiplication and division as they appeared from left to right and then performed the addition as his final step. Cole used the order of operations rule, PEMDAS, and his answer is correct.

Working in this way is called evaluating a numerical expression. A numerical expression is an expression made up only of numbers and operations.

In addition to numbers, expressions can also have letters. The letters in an expression are called variables. These variables represent an unknown quantity. When an expression is written with a variable in it, you call it a variable expression.

A variable expression is evaluated using the order of operations in the same way as a numerical expression is evaluated. In this concept there will be a value given for the variable and you will substitute it into the variable expression before evaluating the expression.

Evaluate the variable expression:

60÷22a+164 when a=5.

First, substitute the given value of ‘a’ into the expression. 

60÷22(5)+164
 

The parenthesis mean you are multiplying 2 times (5).

Next, apply the order of operations (PEMDAS) and continue to evaluate the expression.

First, multiply: 2(5)=10 to clear the parenthesis and write the new expression.

60÷210+164

Next, divide:60÷2=30 and write the new expression.

3010+164

Next, multiply:3010=300 and write the new expression.

300+164

Next, add:300+16=316 and write the new expression.

3164

Then, subtract: 3164=312

The answer is 312.

Now let’s add in the grouping symbols. The grouping symbols that you will be working with are brackets [  ] and parenthesis (  ). According to the order of operations (PEMDAS), you perform all operations inside the grouping symbols BEFORE any other operation in the list.

Evaluate the numerical expression

7+4(15÷5)6.

First, perform the operation in the parenthesis:15÷5=3  and write the new expression. 

7+4(3)6

Next, multiply:4(3)=12 to clear the parenthesis and write the new expression.

7+126
Next, add:7+12=9 and write the new expression. 

196

Then, subtract: 196=13

The answer is 13.

Brackets can be used to group more than one operation. When you see a set of brackets, remember that brackets are a way of grouping numbers and operations.

Evaluate the numerical expression:

6+[5+(4×6)]17.

Start by performing the operations inside the brackets.

First, perform the operation inside the parenthesis.

Multiply:4×6=24 and write the new expression.

6+[5+24]17.

Next, perform the operation inside the brackets.

Add:5+24=29 and write the new expression. 

6+2917

Next, add:6+29=35 and write the new expression. 

3517
Then, subtract: 3517=18 

The answer is 18.

Guided Practice

Evaluate the numerical expression:

3+92÷3+8

First, multiply:92=18 and write down the new expression. 

3+18÷3+8

Next, divide:18÷3=6 and write down the new expression. 

3+6+8

Next add:3+6=9 and write down the new expression. 

9+8
Then, add 9+8=17

The answer is 17.

Examples

Example 1

Evaluate the variable expression 6y+3(2×4) when y=15.

First, substitute y=15 into the expression.

6(15)+3(2×4).

Next, perform the operation inside the parenthesis.

Multiply:2×4=8 and write the new expression. 

6(15)+38
 

Next, multiply:6(15)=90 to clear the parenthesis and write the new expression. 

90+38

Next add:90+3=93 and write the new expression.

938
Then, subtract:

938=85.
The answer is 85.

Example 2

Evaluate the numerical expression 

7+4[4+(3×2)]5
 

Start by performing the operations inside the brackets.

First, perform the operation inside the parenthesis.

Multiply: 3×2=6 and write the new expression.

7+[4+6]5

Next, perform the operation inside the brackets.

Add:4+6=10  and write the new expression. 

7+105

Next, add:7+10=17 and write the new expression. 

175
Then, subtract 

175=12

The answer is 12.

Example 3

Evaluate the variable expression: 

14×2÷7+3b4 when b=12.

First substitute b=12  into the expression.

14×2÷7+3(12)4

Next, multiply: 3(12)=36 to clear the parenthesis and write the new expression.

14×2÷7+364

Next, multiply:14×2=28 and write the new expression. 

28÷7+364
Next, divide:28÷7=4 and write the new expression. 

4+364

Next, add:4+36=40 and write the new expression. 

404

Then, subtract : 404=36

The answer is 36.

Follow Up

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License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Remember Jeb and his (almost) prize?

Consider the short hand expression PEMDAS is given to the order of operations. When solving a problem, like the skill testing question, you need to complete the indicated operations in the order of PEMDAS.

45[30(4×23)]

Notice there is parenthesis within the brackets. You need to work from the inside out. So let’s start with the parenthesis. According to PEMDAS multiplication comes before subtraction.

First, multiply:4×2=8 and write the new expression. 

45[30(83)]
Next, subtract:83=5 and write the new expression.

45[305]

Next, subtract:305=25 and write the new expression. 

45(25)

Next, multiply:45×251=1005 and write the new expression.

1005

Then, divide: 1005=20

The answer is 20.

Jeb needs to answer 20 to claim his prize.

Video Review

Explore More

Evaluate each numerical expression using the order of operations.

1. 4+5×23

2.6+6×3÷27

3. 5+5×8÷2+6

4.133×2+82

5.175×3+8÷2

6.9+4×2+71

7.8+5×6+2×43

8.19+2×432+10

9. 12+4×4÷83

10. 12×2+6÷212


Evaluate each variable expression. Remember to use PEMDAS when necessary.

11.4y+62,when y=6 

12.9+3x5+2,when x=8 

13.6y+2y5,when y=3

14.8+3y5,when y=4

15.7x2×3÷3+12,when x=5

Vocabulary

Brackets

Brackets

Brackets [ ], are symbols that are used to group numbers in mathematics. Brackets are the 'second level' of grouping symbols, used to enclose items already in parentheses.
Equation

Equation

An equation is a mathematical sentence that describes two equal quantities. Equations contain equals signs.
Evaluate

Evaluate

To evaluate an expression or equation means to perform the included operations, commonly in order to find a specific value.
Expression

Expression

An expression is a mathematical phrase containing variables, operations and/or numbers. Expressions do not include comparative operators such as equal signs or inequality symbols.
Grouping Symbols

Grouping Symbols

Grouping symbols are parentheses or brackets used to group numbers and operations.
nested parentheses

nested parentheses

Nested parentheses describe groups of terms inside of other groups. By convention, nested parentheses may be identified with other grouping symbols, such as the braces "{}" and brackets "[]" in the expression \{ 3 + [ 2 - ( 5 + 4 ) ] \}. Always evaluate parentheses from the innermost set outward.
Numerical expression

Numerical expression

A numerical expression is a group of numbers and operations used to represent a quantity.
Parentheses

Parentheses

Parentheses "(" and ")" are used in algebraic expressions as grouping symbols.
PEMDAS

PEMDAS

PEMDAS (Please Excuse My Daring Aunt Sally) is a mnemonic device used to help remember the order of operations: Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication/Division, Addition/Subtraction.
Real Number

Real Number

A real number is a number that can be plotted on a number line. Real numbers include all rational and irrational numbers.
Variable

Variable

A variable is a symbol used to represent an unknown or changing quantity. The most common variables are a, b, x, y, m, and n.
Variable Expression

Variable Expression

A variable expression is a mathematical phrase that contains at least one variable or unknown quantity.

Description

Difficulty Level:

At Grade

Authors:

Grades:

Date Created:

Dec 19, 2012

Last Modified:

Feb 26, 2015
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