Math = Love: Grouping Symbols Poster

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Grouping Symbols Poster

The other day I set out to re-create my order of operations posters because I just feel like they are lacking something.  Plus, the fact that the M is not the same size as the other letters has been bugging me for years.  When I made them, I told myself it wouldn't matter.  But, it's all I can think about when I look at these posters.

Instead, I got side tracked and ended up creating a poster about grouping symbols.  My students almost always see the "P" in "PEMDAS" and think that they have to do parentheses and only parentheses first.  This includes doing parentheses that actually mean multiplication.  I've been emphasizing that "P" actually stands for "Grouping Symbols" the past couple of years and it seems to be helping.  Of course, I have to tell them that their third grade teacher did have the best of intentions.  The only grouping symbol that would be showing up in their third grade math problems were parentheses.

Instead of just telling students about grouping symbols, I've decided I need to give students a resource to look at to check and see if there are any grouping symbols in their problem.  Over the years, my classroom decor has slowly been shifting from an emphasis on cute and motivational to an emphasis on math.  At least, that's my goal.  I still want my room to be "cute," but I also want my students to see a plethora of resources when they walk in my room.

That's why they'll find a horizontal number line, a vertical number line (coming soon), the prime numbers under 100, the order of operations, a set of math symbols, the greek alphabet, the meaning of zero inside a fraction, place value, perfect squares (coming soon), and perfect cubes (coming soon).

Back to grouping symbols.  Here's what I came up with:

I always tell my students that there are invisible parentheses inside a radical sign and around the numerator and denominator in a fraction.  To show that these are usually invisible, I used just the outline of the parentheses around them.  

I also couldn't miss the opportunity to share the fact that the line between a fraction is called a "vinculum" with my students.  I probably share this fun fact with each class at least ten times a year.  

As for {braces}, I actually call them squiggly brackets in my classroom.  But, Wikipedia says they are also known as braces, and that definitely fits on the poster better.  If you call them something different, I've uploaded an editable version of the poster for you.  :)  

I've designed this poster to print on 11 x 17 paper because I have a humongous package of 11 x 17 card stock in my classroom.  (FYI: Amazon currently has 11 x 17 card stock on sale for $9.99 for 250 sheets at the moment.  This is an affiliate link.  Proceeds help to purchase school supplies for my classroom and pay to host the free downloads on this blog.)   

Sadly, I haven't printed it or laminated it yet because the printer at my new school is not playing nice with card stock.  I tried to print my Greek Alphabet posters yesterday, and I ended up with a pile of posters that looked like this:

This printer is identical to the printer at my old school, so I'm not sure what the issue is.  So, until I figure this little issue out, no printing posters for me.  :(

If you want to download the file for yourself, click here!


  1. As I recall, the radical symbol is called a 'surd' and the bar over the contents is still a vinculum.
    I like to call algebra 'surds for nerds' but that works better spoken.

    1. Now that you mention this, I remember reading this somewhere!

  2. I learned after my first year of teaching that my students, too, only focused on parentheses. So, I made an interactive notebook page that is
    instead. The G being for grouping symbols and we jot down some notes about different grouping symbols. But I totally love this poster!!!!!

  3. I always call { } fancy brackets. My students are always complaining about how hard they are to draw.

    1. I like it! And, my students groan and complain about having to draw them, too!!!

  4. For my students who cant draw then and get stuck on that and can't seem to move forward, I have them draw a ( with a dash through it and they seem to like that a lot ..

  5. Sarah,

    Your group symbols poster is not downloading for me for some reason. Would you be able to send me a copy?

    Thank you!

  6. I just found your site and love the ideas. Thank you for sharing these great activities and posters. Keep up the creativity!