Using Parentheses in Math: Rules & Examples

Using Parentheses in Math: Rules & Examples
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  • 0:01 Parentheses in Math
  • 0:29 Separating Numbers for Clarity
  • 0:51 Indicating Multiplication
  • 1:07 Order of Operations
  • 2:25 Practice Examples
  • 3:32 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Cathryn Jackson

Cat has taught a variety of subjects, including communications, mathematics, and technology. Cat has a master's degree in education and is currently working on her Ph.D.

In this lesson, we will explore how to use parentheses to clarify numbers, indicate multiplication, and group numbers together for the order of operations. After exploring the rules of parentheses, review your understanding of this lesson with a short quiz.

Parentheses in Math

In English, we use parentheses to indicate clarification for a concept (we add extra information using parentheses). The following rules will help you understand how parentheses are used in mathematics for different purposes. Parentheses are used in mathematics for three main purposes: to separate numbers for clarity, to indicate multiplication, and to group numbers together.

Separating Numbers for Clarity

Parentheses can be used to separate numbers for clarity. For example, if you had an addition problem with a negative number, parentheses would be used to separate the two signs. Parentheses can also be used to separate a number from its exponent. This usually happens if you are raising a negative number to a power.

Indicating Multiplication

When a number appears next to another number with parentheses, you need to multiply the two numbers. For example, when you see 2(3), you multiply 2 and 3.

Order of Operations

Think about when you tie your shoes or make a sandwich. You can't put the mustard on your sandwich if you don't have any bread, right? Or, maybe you like to have a routine in the morning: brush your teeth first before you wash your face. Mathematics is the same way. You have to solve mathematical problems in a certain order, called the order of operations.

The primary use of parentheses is to group numbers together in mathematical problems. When you see multiple numbers and operations inside parentheses, use the order of operations to solve the problem. The order of operations is:

  1. Parentheses
  2. Exponents
  3. Multiplication and/or division (whichever comes first from left to right)
  4. Addition and/or subtraction (whichever comes first from left to right)

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