I got an email from a friend with a link to this article about PEMDAS and a math problem. It made me remember the story below that I shared with my friend. Anyway just thought I would share with all of you to. It certainly shows how to bring math alive, and how to hold the students attention.
> Facebook math problem: Why PEMDAS doesn?t always give a clear answer. - Slate Magazine -----
Did I ever tell you the story of Mr. Magee? He was my 7th grade math teacher and taught us the order of operations. He seemed quite old and was a WWII veteran. He had been held as a prisoner of war by the Japanese. If you don't know what that means; I will tell you it was horrific. Anyway he told us how the prisoners tried to stay alive. They were very concerned about infection of wounds. But it was known to them that maggots, fly larvae, consume decayed flesh. So they would place the maggots into their wounds. The maggots would go deep down into the decayed and rotted flesh, but not past that into the healthy tissue. Then the maggots would consume their rotted flesh slowly rising back to the surface. When their wound were cleaned in this manner they would remove the all the maggots. He told us this kept them alive. After telling us this story he drew a picture of a little maggot over an equation. And he had the little maggot perform each mathematical process according to the order of operations as though it were working its way up through the rotted infected flesh.
After this remarkable pedagogical exhibition I myself will never forget the order of operations. But I am afraid most of the girls spend the class screaming and weeping. This may explain why many of the girls lost interest in mathematics.