Mastering Parentheses in Mathematics: A Comprehensive Guide

By Strategically AI. Reviewed by Rebecca Hey.
Updated December 7, 2023
3 minute read
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Parentheses in mathematics are like the guiding signs in a complex maze. They direct the order in which operations should be performed, ensuring clarity and precision in solving mathematical problems. In this article, we'll explore the crucial role of parentheses in math, breaking down their usage with examples to help you understand and apply them effectively in your calculations.

The Fundamental Role of Parentheses in Math

In mathematics, parentheses are used to group numbers and operations. This grouping is essential because it indicates which parts of a problem should be solved first, following the order of operations (PEMDAS/BODMAS).

When to Use Parentheses in Math

  • To Alter the Order of Operations: Normally, you would perform multiplication before addition, but parentheses can change this order. For example, in the expression 5 * (2 + 3), the addition inside the parentheses is done first.
  • To Clarify Complex Expressions: In more complicated expressions, parentheses help to clarify which operations are to be performed together. For instance, in (3 + 4) * (5 - 2), there are two separate groups to be calculated before multiplying the results.

Understanding the Order of Operations

PEMDAS/BODMAS is an acronym that helps remember the order: Parentheses/Brackets, Exponents/Orders, Multiplication and Division (from left to right), and Addition and Subtraction (from left to right). Parentheses are the first step in this order.

Practical Examples of Parentheses in Math

Let's apply parentheses in some mathematical expressions:

  • Basic Example: In 2 + 3 * 4, the answer is 14. But with parentheses: 2 + (3 * 4), the answer changes to 20.
  • Complex Expression: Consider (2 + 3) * (4 + 5). Here, you first add the numbers inside each set of parentheses, getting 5 and 9, and then multiply these results to get 45.

Summary: The Power of Parentheses in Mathematical Expressions

Parentheses in mathematics are not just symbols; they are powerful tools that dictate the flow of operations in an expression. Understanding and correctly using them can be the difference between arriving at the right answer and getting lost in the numerical maze.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can parentheses change the outcome of a math problem?

Absolutely! The placement of parentheses can significantly alter the result of a mathematical expression by changing the order in which operations are performed.

Are parentheses used the same way in all mathematical problems?

Yes, the fundamental rule of solving what's inside the parentheses first applies universally in mathematics.

What happens if I have nested parentheses?

In cases of nested parentheses, start solving from the innermost set and work your way outwards.

Can parentheses be used in algebraic expressions?

Yes, parentheses are often used in algebra to group terms and operations, especially when dealing with complex equations.

Is it possible to have too many parentheses in a math problem?

While you can have multiple sets of parentheses, especially in complex problems, unnecessary use of parentheses can make an expression more complicated than it needs to be.


Parentheses play a pivotal role in mathematics, guiding us through the maze of numbers and operations. Their proper use ensures accuracy and clarity in solving mathematical problems, from the simplest to the most complex. Remember, in the world of math, parentheses are your roadmap to the correct solution.

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Rebecca Hey
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