For some people, maths is one of the most irritatingly complicated subjects to master. Most people struggle with math in some form or another. In fact, 31% of adults in the UK struggle with even basic maths problems. A study also showed that 29% avoid doing maths, and 39% feel anxious when doing maths. This problem became more evident during Covid-driven lockdowns. Parents struggled to help their children with even basic maths problems like; multiplication, addition and subtraction.
It is a commonly held belief that creative people are generally not gifted at maths. It is said that people with left brain dominance are better at maths because this deals with logic and analytical thinking. Right-brained people tend to be more creative and better at language. Anecdotally creative people like painters and writers usually seem to be terrible at maths and vice versa. However, there is scepticism about this idea, not least because certain forms of maths are also creative.
However, in some cases, difficulty with maths is a recognised disability similar to dyslexia. Colloquially known as mathslexia, Dyscalculia is a learning disability. Different signs of the disorder can be shown during different developmental ages. In adults, it is characterised by:
- Struggling with counting backwards
- Struggling with remembering mathematical facts
- Slow calculation speeds
- Poor mental arithmetic
- Weak sense of estimations and numbers
- Struggling to understand the concept of place value
- High anxiety when doing maths
For those with Dyscalculia, they may need extra help from professionals, but for anyone struggling with maths, there are a number of ways to make it easier. One of these helpful acronyms is BODMAS which helps break down the order of mathematical operations.
BODMAS stands for:
- Order of powers or roots
The BODMAS acronym is known as the BODMAS rule. To make the rule itself easier to remember people often turn it into a Mnemonic. This takes each letter turning into a word making it a memorable sentence. A similar mnemonic for the order of operation math rule PEMDAS is: “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.”
BODMAS is the ordered sequence of mathematical operations in an arithmetic expression. The BODMAS rule is also used as an evaluation tool to test the accuracy of an answer. It also helps standardise and simplify complex maths problems.
What are some BODMAS examples?
One example as supplied by Thirdspacelearning.com is the mathematical expression 6 + 2 x 7. The correct answer for this is 20 and not 56. This is calculated using the BODMAS rule. This is because multiplication comes before addition using this mathematical rule. So you would first multiply 2 by 7. So 2 x 7 = 14. Then the addition is calculated as it comes behind multiplication on the BODMAS rule. So you add the remaining 6 to the answer of the multiplication you have already calculated. So, 14 + 6 = 20.
If you do not follow the BODMAS rule you may have first added 6 + 2 together to get 8. Then 8 multiplied by 7 would give you 56. As you can see this is more than double the correct answer, leaving a huge error margine.
More complex BODMAS examples such as 3 x (2 + 4) + 5 squared require extra steps. The right answer for this is 43. To work this out, you do the brackets first, so (2 + 4) = 6. You then do the orders of powers which is 5 squared = 25. Then division and multiplication come next. As there is no division, you multiply 3 by the 6 you got in the first step. So, 3 x 6 = 18. The last step is addition and subtraction. In this case, you only need to do addition. So you add the 18 with the answer you got for your order of power calculation which is 25. This means, that 18 + 25 gives you 43, which is the right answer.
Some pupils may get the wrong answer 35 if they work strictly from left to right with no order of operation. If students don't know the BODMAS rule, they may struggle to work out the answer and struggle to understand why they are wrong.
At what age is BODMAS taught?
Of course, children can learn the BODMAS rule whenever they are capable. However, typical children outside of mathematical prodigies usually learn the BODMAS rule towards the end of primary school. Younger children have more plastic brains than adults allowing them to learn exorbitantly advancing problems as their brains rapidly expand. This is how they can go from learning how to count to 100 in year one. Then by year 6, they can do BODMAS calculations involving complex mathematical expressions.
Primary school children in Scotland will learn this in primary seven. Primary schools in Scotland do not have a reception year, so they start at primary one instead. Year six is equivalent to primary seven the only difference is the naming of the first primary school year.
BODMAS may also be taught under the acronym BIDMAS. The BIDMAS and BODMAS meaning are the same, and the order is the same. The I in BIDMAS stands for Indices instead of O standing for Order in BODMAS.
Why is BODMAS important?
For one, it can make students' academic experience run more smoothly. The primary maths curriculum is an important core to learn before moving on to advancing high-school maths. Often primary school children who fail to grasp these concepts early struggle and fall behind in secondary school. Therefore it may be essential to master the foundation that is primary school maths to have any success in mathematical subjects in the future.
Also, depending on your career aspirations, you may need to be exceptionally talented at maths. According to Glassdoor Chief Financial Officers have the highest salaries in the UK. To work in finance, you have to have an excellent grip on maths.
However, even if you have other aspirations such as a military career you still need to have mathematical ability. It is often seen that the Army will take on anyone. And, although you do not need any qualifications to join the lower ranks as a soldier, you still have to pass a maths test.
The BODMAS order of operations is also used in computer programming. So, if you want to be a computer programmer, you need to know what BODMAS stands for and how to use it. The BODMAS order of operation is also used in spreadsheet platforms like Microsoft Excel. So, if you use spreadsheets in your job, including doing the expenses for your own company, it will be tremendously beneficial to know the rule.
How do I make BODMAS calculations easier?
Knowing the correct order of operations is only half the battle. You still need to do the calculations. Most people can do the addition and subtraction part of the sequence with ease, often with a calculator. However, contrary to what many of us have been taught in school, we almost always have a calculator with us. This is because, for most of us, our mobile phones have become like a fifth limb.
Even if you break your phone, you will likely have access to another device like a tablet or laptop. In this case, you can go online and use online calculators to do the calculations for you. Just remember to do the calculations in the correct order, or you will still get the wrong answer.
Maths is one of the trickiest subjects for many people. During lockdown, it was shown that even adults struggled with maths as they were incapable of helping their children with their schoolwork. A popular belief is that creative people (right-brained) are poor at maths and more logical (left-brained) people are good and vice versa. However, many have questioned the right vs left-brained debate and assert strong capability on both sides is needed in math. However, there is a dyslexia-like learning disability known as Dyscalculia that makes maths difficult for some people.
The complexity of maths means educators come up with different methods to help students understand it. For example, the acronym BODMAS was created to better help people remember the correct order to do a sequence of calculations.
BODMAS stands for:
- Order of powers or roots
Calculations should be done in that order starting with brackets. Order of powers is sometimes switched for Indices to spell BIDMAS. However, this is the exact same order, there is just a slight name change.
BODMAS is generally taught in year six or primary seven in Scotland. It is important to learn this foundation before moving to high school. Learning BODMAS and other elements of maths may be crucial in your career path. For example, if you want to chase the highest salary in the UK, which is generally Chief Financial Officers you need to be highly skilled at maths. On the other end, even basic, entry-level infantry soldiers need to pass a maths test to be accepted into the British Army.