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Is BODMAS for Life (Or just for Christmas)?

The question is –  Does the rule for order of calculation, BODMAS  always apply?

(OK so it’s a bit eccentric having a post about Christmas at the start of August, but I liked the title so I am sticking to it)

For a reminder of what the BODMAS rule is,  check here

Can we ever bend the BODMAS Rule?

Well the real answer is ‘yes’ – but should the rules should be bent sometimes?

This idea started with a post I saw on Facebook. I gave my initial answer yesterday. This morning I had to admit I got it wrong, if we follow BODMAS to the letter.

A BODMAS Example

The question is, simply, what is the value of



Add 2 + 2 to get 4; multiply by the 2 outside the bracket and get 8;  then 8 divided by 8…  we get the answer 1.

Actually, by BODMAS rules the divide should come before the multiply (D before M)   so it should be 8 divided by 2 (Giving 4)….  4 x 4 = 16

That is probably the ‘Correct’ answer and I had to accept I was wrong  – and there is nothing bad about accepting one is wrong sometimes


Why I might disagree?


But I still feel somewhat attached to my original answer!  To me,  2(2+2)  LOOKS like a single unit for calculation. If the x sign had been there between the first 2 and the ( , as below, I don’t think I’d have made the same mistake


For me, the () is such a powerful sign,  I see any digit next to it as ‘belonging’ to it, and hence how I did that calculation in the way I did. I can’t claim that is the official rule; just the way I read it.

So my recommendation is, BODMAS rules as they are, if you want to communicate a calculation, if there is any doubt on what you mean, include extra brackets to avoid confusion


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