Linear Algebra For Dummies
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You have to follow the order of operations with each algebra problem you solve. Following the order of operations in algebra ensures that anyone reading a mathematical expression can solve it the same way and get the same answer.

You work out the order of operations by solving in this order:

  1. Parentheses or grouping symbols

  2. Exponents (powers) or roots

  3. Multiplication or division

  4. Addition or subtraction

When you have two operations on the same “level,” you can do them in any order. For example, if a problem contains both a power and a root, either can be done first. If you have more than two operations, do them in order from left to right, following the order of operations.

You may encounter an expression with no grouping symbols, such as 4 – 4 ÷ 2 + 5 × 2. You can make it easier to follow the order of operations by adding your own grouping symbols. Now the problem looks like this: 4 − [(4 ÷ 2) + (5 × 2)].

Remember algebra's order of operations with the phrase, "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally." This trick for remembering the order of operations reminds you of which steps to take and when: Parentheses/grouping symbols, Exponents/roots, Multiply, Divide, Add, Subtract (PEMDAS).

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Mary Jane Sterling taught algebra, business calculus, geometry, and finite mathematics at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, for more than 30 years. She is the author of several For Dummies books, including Algebra Workbook For Dummies, Algebra II For Dummies, and Algebra II Workbook For Dummies.

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