   SEARCH HOME Math Central Quandaries & Queries  Rebecca, a student: I have 3 questions. 1) I don't really understand BEDMAS.Im going in to the 6th grade and im kind of nervis about it.? 2)When you're doing BEDMAS what does the small 3 or 2 above the other numerals mean? 3)How would you answer this:5+2 x 9 - 9 x 12= ?? To answer your question about the little number on the top right corner of another number or bracket is an exponent, An exponent is a short cut for writing multiplying many things that are the same together. The exponent tells us how many times each thing that is the same is multiplied.
For example: 24=2x2x2x2 = 16. The exponent 4 tells us that 2 is multplied by itself 4 times.

When expressions have more than one operation, we have to follow rules for the order of operations which is also known as BEDMAS:

Brackets - First do all operations that lie inside brackets (also known as parentheses).
Exponents - Next, do any work with exponents or radicals.
Multiplication & Division - Working from left to right, evaluate any multiplication and division.
Addition & Subtraction - Finally, working from left to right, do all addition and subtraction.

An example of an expression with all of the above operations is 4 x (6-2)2÷(3-1)3-7
 4 x (6-2)2÷(3-1)3-7 4 x (4)2÷(2)3-7 First I worked inside the brackets: 6-2=4 and 3-1=2 4 x 16÷8-7 Next I worked with my exponents: 42=4x4=16 and 23=2x2x2=8 64÷8-7 Working from left to right, I multiply and divide: 4x16=64 8-7 Working from left to right, I multiply and divide:64÷8 = 8 1 Last I add or subtract: 8-7=1

Remember that when you are working within the brackets to also follow the BEDMAS rules. For example: 4x[32-(4+5)]
 4x[32-(4+3)] 4x[32-7] First I worked inside the brackets and notice another set of brackets so I will start there first: 4+3=7 4x[9-7] Next I worked with my exponent within the bracket: 32=9 4x2 Next there is no multiplication or division in the brackets so I will subtract: 9-7=2 8 The only operation that is left is multiplication: 4x2=8

Hope this helps. Good luck with the new school year!

Janice     Math Central is supported by the University of Regina and The Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences.