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Free Order of Operations Activity


Order of Operations Activity for 5th and 6th Grade Math

Are you looking for an easy, effective and FREE order of operations activity to help students practice order of operations in math class?


Early last week, I was trying to think of a different kind of activity to help my middle school math students who needed more reinforcement with order of operations. So I decided to make a sequencing activity.

This FREE Order of Operations Activity is perfect for your upper elementary of middle school classroom.

I hadn’t tried this before, so I wasn’t sure about the best way to design it. But the activity ended up working very well. 

This post shares how I put this math activity together and used it with my 6th grade math classes.

Activity Design

For this order of operations activity, I created 8 different expressions, and then typed out the steps to simplify each expression. You can see what this looks like farther down in the post.

To prepare the activity for the students:
1) I copied the expressions and steps onto different colored papers, so that two expressions would be on the same color.
2) I cut the steps apart into strips, and then put two expressions and their steps (of the same colored paper) into a baggie.

  • I figured if I put only one equation in a baggie, the activity would be too simple.
  • If I put two expressions of two different colors, it would be too easy.
  • So I went with two expressions in the same color. That way they’d have to do some sorting of the expressions.:-)

Using the Order of Operations Sequencing Activity

I put 3 baggies (6 different expressions and their order of operations steps) into a manila envelope for each group.

  • Groups were mostly just partners, with an occasional group of 3.
Your students will love this order of operations activity that will have them sequencing the steps in solving an equation.

I typed directions to include in the envelopes, and asked students to do their best to follow those directions before asking for clarification.

  • Some of the students worked on this activity, while others completed different activities. So, I needed them to try to work through the directions themselves, before I got to each group to discuss with them. 

Some students needed additional instruction, while others did not.

After students put the steps into the correct order, they had to write those steps onto a recording sheet, pictured below.

Example from the order of operations activity
Sheet before it's cut into strips
Student response sheet from the free order of operations activity
Recording sheet

In each of my math classes, students worked on this activity for about 15-20 minutes. 

  • Some groups completed all 6 expressions, while others completed only 2-3. 
  • A few more minutes would have been helpful for those students who didn’t complete as many expressions, but I can revisit the activity with those students this week.

I will definitely use this again next year:)

More Resources!

If you’re looking for other resources to give your students quality practice with order of operations, I have several in my TPT shop – some print and some digital.

The Math Wheel is great for taking notes when you’re teaching or reviewing this topic.

Order of Operations Footloose is a FREE resource with 30 task cards, student recording sheet, and key.

Truth or Dare Game is a fun way to practice this concept! Students choose Truth or Dare questions that allows them to self-differentiate and think a little more deeply about the concepts. There is a separate digital version of this one as well.

Order of Operations Color by Number is a long-time favorite printable resource that now has digital options!

Order of Operations Color by Answer Pixel Art is digital practice with the pattern/pictures appearing with students’ correct answers.

Google Task Cards and Quiz are the same 30 task cards questions as the Footloose. These cards are self-checking and the Google Forms quiz offers a quick assessment.


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Welcome to Cognitive Cardio Math! I’m Ellie, a wife, mom, grandma, and dog ‘mom,’ and I’ve spent just about my whole life in school! With nearly 30 years in education, I’ve taught:

  • All subject areas in 4th and 5th grades
  • Math, ELA, and science in 6th grade (middle school)

I’ve been creating resources for teachers since 2012 and have worked in the elearning industry for about five years as well!

If you’re looking for ideas and resources to help you teach math (and a little ELA), I can help you out!



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