Basic Math & Pre-Algebra For Dummies
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Evaluate exponents from left to right before you begin evaluating Big Four operations (adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing). The trick here is to turn the expression into a Big Four expression and then use the other basic order of operations rules.

The Three Types of Big Four Expressions

Expression Example Rule
Contains only addition and subtraction 12 + 7 - 6 - 3 + 8 Evaluate left to right.
Contains only multiplication and division 18 ÷ 3 x 7 ÷ 14 Evaluate left to right.
Mixed-operator expression: contains a combination of addition/subtraction and multiplication/division 9 + 6 ÷ 3 1. Evaluate multiplication and division left to right.
2. Evaluate addition and subtraction left to right.

For example, suppose you want to evaluate the following:

3 + 5² - 6

First, evaluate the exponent:

3 + 25 - 6

At this point, the expression contains only addition and subtraction, so you can evaluate it from left to right in two steps:

= 28 - 6
= 22


3 + 5² - 6 = 22

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Mark Zegarelli earned degrees in mathematics and English from Rutgers University. He is the founder of SimpleStep Learning, an online educational platform that teaches courses in basic concepts in ten minutes or less, keeping students engaged and learning in every moment. Mark is also author of several other successful For Dummies books.

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