How to You Solve a Problem Like BIDMAS?

Tag Archives: problem solving

BIDMAS, problem solving, maths, escape rooms

How to You Solve a Problem Like BIDMAS?

Are you familiar with BIDMAS? Perhaps your children are? Are your parents?

In case you’re not and you’re wondering whether BIDMAS is a person, concept or foreign festival let us give you some context:

code, escape room, maths, problem solving, BIDMASMany of the escape rooms our Directors, Angela and Mark, have tried across the UK and in Europe use props and clues within the escape room to pose questions, present riddles and offer puzzles. These enigmas and problems usually need to be answered and solved using brain power and logic to progress to the next stage of the escape room or to reveal a piece of a larger puzzle to work towards the overall goal of escaping the room.

Some questions posed in escape rooms can often be mathematical sums to be solved and it recently came to our attention that how players approach the problem-solving process depends on what year they attended school and what they were taught in math class. For instance, today’s children are familiar with BIDMAS, which dictates the priority or order in which different elements of a sum are to be solved. BIDMAS (Sometimes known as BODMAS) stands for:

BIDMAS, problem solving, maths, escape rooms

Image credit: The Maths Magpie Blog.

Indices / Orders – (powers such as 2 squared or three cubed etc)

So, if you had to solve the sum 5 + 4 x 3 in order to unlock a prop in an escape room how would you approach it?

If you had been taught BIDMAS you would do the multiplication part of the sum first (4 x 3) to get ’12’ and then add ‘5’ to that answer = 17.

However, if you hadn’t been taught what BIDMAS means at school you might have approached the problem by solving the addition element first (5 + 4) to give you 9 and then multiplied that answer by 3 to = 36.

Different Approaches to Problem Solving

Both approaches give you very different answers. There was no defining moment when BIDMAS was introduced into the National Curriculum and perhaps older generations approach a maths problem like ‘5 + 4 x 3’ in the same order that BIDMAS dictates, but without knowing the term for the technique they are using (hence not being familiar with the term BIDMAS or BODMAS).

calculator, problem solving, escape rooms, mathsEither way, there are many examples in maths in which various generations approach a problem differently (something we’re always fascinated to watch when players try and escape our game rooms!). Sometimes younger generations use a pen and paper, whilst older players are better at mental arithmetic, not having had the privilege of calculators and convenience of smartphones to do their sums for them!

What is clear is that having a go at an escape room is always fun with a mix-aged group. They say,’two heads are better than one’ so why not bring your parents and/or children next time you book our escape room games? That way you’re bound to crack any mathematical sums between you!