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Order of Operations Question Stack Activity

I created this order of operations question stack activity to give my Algebra 1 students extra practice applying the order of operations to some rather involved expressions.

order of operations question stack activity

These order of operations questions are specially designed to expose students to various grouping symbols including parentheses, brackets, absolute value bars, radicals, and fraction bars. I created a grouping symbols reference chart and poster that might come in handy for students while completing these problems.

I tweeted about this in September 2017 when my students completed it, but it somehow managed to never end up on the blog here. As I have been going through old tweets/blog posts, I’m realizing this has happened more than I realized. Oops!

This Order of Operations Question Stack features 10 questions that include absolute value bars and radicals.

Order of Operations Question Stack Activity

The back of the cards feature an answer bank.

Order of Operations Question Stack Activity

Don’t be fooled, though. These are NOT FLASHCARDS. The answer on the back of the card does not match the question on the front of the card.

Instead, they are arranged in such a way that each question leads to a new question. Previously, I have shared an explanation card I typed up for students to use with their question stack.

Order of Operations Question Stack Activity

Students begin by laying out all ten cards with the ANSWERS FACING UP.

Order of Operations Question Stack Activity

Then, students choose one card to turn over at random. This reveals the first question.

Order of Operations Question Stack Activity

Students work though this question. It is self-checking because the answer to the question can be found in the answer bank on the desk. If students arrive at an answer that is not in the answer bank, they know they need to re-examine their work or ask for help.

Order of Operations Question Stack Activity

If the answer is in the answer bank, students pick up that card, turn it over, and stack it on top of the card they just solved.

Order of Operations Question Stack Activity

They now have a new question to solve. I like this structure because it gives students lot of practice, and it helps me know which students need my help the most. The answer bank shrinks with each question that students complete. I find that student confidence increases as the answer bank shrinks.

Order of Operations Question Stack Activity

I printed these question and answer cards on Avery Business Cards that I purchased from NAIER. If you don’t have printable business cards handy, you can definitely just print on regular letter-sized paper. Cut off the outside margins, then you can cut the cards apart.

Free Download of Order of Operations Question Stack


Order of Operations Question Stack (PDF) (2140 downloads )


Order of Operations Question Stack (Editable WORD File ZIP) (1135 downloads )

Make Your Own Question Stacks

Want to make your own question stack activity? I have created an easy to use printable question stack template that works perfectly every time. All you have to do is add your own questions!

make your own question stack template.

Rachel Meytin

Thursday 24th of June 2021

What happens when they get the question that matches the answer they first turned over? Wouldn’t that mess them up? (I feel like I’m missing something!) Thanks!!

Sarah Carter

Thursday 15th of July 2021

That means they have cycled through the entire deck. The very last card will match the answer on the back of the very first card. You do have to be careful when you design a deck of these cards to make sure that it works this way. I have made this mistake in the past and it makes for some very confused students (and teacher!)

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