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Missing Parentheses – An Order of Operations Activity

I really like this order of operations activity that I am naming “Missing Parentheses.” I found it in the textbook Intermediate Algebra for College Students by Karl J. Smith and Patrick J. Boyle (free to borrow from the Internet Archive’s Online Lending Library).

Yesterday, I shared a lovely set of 10 order of operations practice problems from the same textbook. (A reader pointed out that there was a typo in one of the files. I have since corrected it. Sorry about that!)

intermediate algebra for college students by karl j. smith and patrick j. boyle

This problem actually came directly after the other ten practice problems for order of operations. The original problem states: “Insert symbols of inclusion into the following expression so as to obtain each of the values in Problems 61-64.”

Image Source: Intermediate Algebra for College Students by Karl J. Smith and Patrick J. Boyle

I’ve typed it up to make it a hopefully easy to use resource in the math classroom!

Here’s my rewording: “Insert the missing parentheses into each equation to make it true when evaluated according to the order of operations.”

missing parentheses order of operations task

I realize that teachers in other countries would likely want to rename this activity as “Missing Brackets” since it seems like only Americans who put an emphasis on the term parentheses in regards to order of operations…

I have shared an editable version of the file below so you can change it up to suit exactly what your students need!

Desmos Version

Kathy Henderson has shared a Desmos version of this activity. Students use the sketch tools to insert the parentheses into each equation. Enjoy!

Puzzle Solutions

I intentionally do not make answers to the printable math puzzles I share on my blog available online because I strive to provide learning experiences for my students that are non-google-able. I would like other teachers to be able to use these puzzles in their classrooms as well without the solutions being easily found on the Internet.

However, I do recognize that us teachers are busy people and sometimes need to quickly reference an answer key to see if a student has solved a puzzle correctly or to see if they have interpreted the instructions properly.

If you are a teacher who is using these puzzles in your classroom, please send me an email at with information about what you teach and where you teach. I will be happy to forward an answer key to you.


Monday 31st of January 2022

Good morning! I love these four problems with the parentheses.

Brandi Vowell

Sunday 7th of November 2021

I am a Special Education teacher at FKHS in Coffeyville, Kansas. I gave this activity to my Inter Pre-Algebra class on Friday to work over the weekend.

Thank you, Mrs. AEIOU


Sunday 31st of October 2021

Thank you so much Sarah!


Sunday 3rd of October 2021

Figured out 2, 11 and 12 but struggling with 8... can get a hint? Thanks!


Sunday 3rd of October 2021

Just got it..!

Colleen Donahue

Friday 1st of October 2021

Thank you!