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Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally: Unraveling the Mysteries of PEMDAS


In the world of mathematics, there exists a mnemonic phrase that has befuddled countless students and left them scratching their heads in confusion. “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” – a seemingly innocent sentence that hides a deeper meaning within. This article aims to demystify this cryptic phrase, explore its significance in mathematics, and provide clarity on the order of operations.

Introduction: The Enigmatic Aunt Sally

Mathematics is a language of precision, and to effectively communicate within this realm, we must adhere to a set of rules known as the “order of operations.” At the heart of this mathematical grammar lies the acronym PEMDAS, which stands for:

P – Parentheses

E – Exponents

M – Multiplication

D – Division

A – Addition

S – Subtraction

These operations dictate the sequence in which mathematical expressions should be evaluated to ensure consistent and accurate results. But why does Aunt Sally need to be excused? Let’s dive deeper into each aspect.

Parentheses – Embracing the Innermost

The first step in unraveling the mystery of Aunt Sally is to understand the importance of parentheses. They represent the innermost layer of mathematical operations. When expressions are enclosed in parentheses, they take precedence over all other operations.

Exponents – The Power of Numbers

Exponents, often referred to as powers or indices, are the next piece of the puzzle. They involve raising a number to a certain power. These operations have a higher priority than multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction.

Multiplication and H4: Division – Left to Right

Now, we venture into the realms of multiplication and division. These operations share the same priority level and are evaluated from left to right. If Aunt Sally has a multiplication and division dispute, the left-to-right rule settles it.

Addition and S – Subtraction – The Final Frontier

The last frontier in the world of PEMDAS is addition and subtraction. Like their predecessors, these operations also share the same priority level and are evaluated from left to right. Aunt Sally bids us farewell at this stage as we conclude our mathematical journey.

Putting It All Together

Now that we’ve dissected Aunt Sally’s plea, let’s apply these principles to solve a mathematical expression:

Example: (4 + 3) * 2^2 / 5 – 1

  1. Start with parentheses: (4 + 3) equals 7.
  2. Move to exponents: 2^2 equals 4.
  3. Next, multiplication and division from left to right: 7 * 4 equals 28, and 28 / 5 equals 5.6.
  4. Finally, subtraction from left to right: 5.6 – 1 equals 4.6.

The result of the expression is 4.6, and Aunt Sally is no longer perplexing.


In the world of mathematics, clarity and precision are paramount. The phrase “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” serves as a mnemonic device to help students remember the order of operations: Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction. By understanding these principles, students can navigate mathematical expressions with confidence and accuracy.

FAQs: Unlocking Further Insights

  1. What happens if I don’t follow PEMDAS? Failure to follow the order of operations can lead to incorrect mathematical results. PEMDAS ensures consistency and accuracy in mathematical expressions.
  2. Are there exceptions to PEMDAS? In some advanced mathematics, there may be exceptions or variations to PEMDAS. However, for basic arithmetic and algebra, PEMDAS is a reliable guide.
  3. Why does Aunt Sally need excusing? Aunt Sally’s plea is a memorable way to remember the order of operations, making math more accessible and less intimidating.
  4. Can I use a different mnemonic for PEMDAS? While “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” is widely used, you can create your own mnemonic to remember the order of operations.
  5. Is PEMDAS used outside of mathematics? PEMDAS is specific to mathematics and the order in which mathematical operations should be performed.

Unlock the power of PEMDAS, and let Aunt Sally’s plea be your guide to mastering the art of mathematical operations.

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