K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • gain an understanding of the importance for order of operations.
  • apply the order of operations to various mathematical problems.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

55 Minutes


  • Loaf of bread
  • Jar of Peanut Butter
  • Jar of Jelly
  • Plastic Knife
  • Paper Plates
  • Paper Towels
  • Plastic Gloves
  • Calculators for special-needs students


  1. Place the following problem on the board (or a similar problem):
    6 + 3 x 8 / 4 - 5
  2. Ask each student to solve (there should be various answers as students find their own way to solve the problem).
  3. Discuss the possible reasons for the differing answers.


  1. Ask students to raise their hand if they know how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (PB&J).
  2. Select one of those students to give you step-by-step directions for making a PB&J sandwich. Follow their directions to the letter!

    Student- “Put the peanut butter on the bread.”
    Teacher- Places the jar of peanut butter on the loaf of bread.

  3. Give another student the opportunity to give you directions. Again, follow their directions explicitly!
  4. Continue with this until you have made a PB&J sandwich or you feel that you have demonstrated the point of the activity.
  5. Discuss with the students the importance of established procedure for basic tasks, and point out that math is no different!
  6. Share the “established procedure” for order of operations through the mnemonic device “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.” Using the new “rules” re-write the problem from the pre-actvity on the board and ask students to solve it!


Journal Entry:
Give an example from your life where there is a specific order in which you must do something. Discuss why it is important that it be done in a certain order. Finally, tie in why it is important that students know the order of operations.

Supplemental information


If you choose, you may want to give a sandwich to those who helped you “make” the PB&J sandwich. Of course, you need to ensure that no students have a food allergy to peanut butter or the type of jelly that is used.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Mathematics (2004)

Grade 3

  • Goal 1: Number and Operations - The learner will model, identify, and compute with whole numbers through 9,999.
    • Objective 1.04: Use basic properties (identity, commutative, associative, order of operations) for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.