Teaching PEMDAS Painlessly Using ST Math

Changing standards require students to understand concepts, make connections and communicate their reasoning. This raises expectations not only for students, but also teachers, who are being asked to teach concepts earlier and give students the tools to go deeper in their understanding.

In my role of supporting and partnering with ST Math teachers who are facing these rising expectations, one of my favorite things to see is when our ST Math interactive program helps educators teach new and challenging math concepts painlessly. I love seeing how JiJi (the loveable penguin in ST Math) can transform an unproductive lesson into a deeply engaging learning experience. 

This is exactly what happened with Denise Bakick, a 5th grade teacher from Parker Middle School in Edinboro, PA. Denise sent me this letter to let me know what happened when she used ST Math to introduce PEMDAS, order of operations. 

In addition to making me feel warm and fuzzy about her students' love for math and JiJi, Denise’s letter shares how she integrated the ST Math education technology into the classroom, and the incredible difference in her students’ level of understanding compared to last year!

Dear Christine,

Wow, fantastic, amazing, I simply don’t have the words. Well, yes, actually I do. The kids have been doing the “Using Parenthesis” section of games in ST Math prior to formally introducing PEMDAS.  

teaching PEMDAS in fifth grade

I used JiJi and the SmartBoard to do the introduction with the kids.  It was simply a beautiful sight. The kids’ reaction and explanation of the order of operations and what they picked up from JiJi was jaw dropping. It was ever so cool to see them connect and understand. Since we did this as a large group lesson, I pretty much let the kids lead and dropped in when I had to tweak or restate what a student said.

I had a student teacher and a substitute in the room and they were floored as well. I then had to spill the beans about last year (without JiJi). Last year was the first year we were teaching the order of operations since common core moved it down from 6th, and to put it bluntly, it was sad! It was a painful exercise and it took a long time for the kids to grasp the concept. While we tried various activities, games, etc., it can’t compare to what I saw over the last two weeks and today.

I did tell the kids about last year versus this year. Their overall comment was that “JiJi made it easy.”

So, to sum it up: yipee! Happy students, happy teachers and conceptual understanding!


Denise Bakich
5th Grade Teacher
Parker Middle School


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Christine Price

About the Author

Christine Price is an Education Success Manager at MIND Research Institute.


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