What are Brackets?
Brackets, in mathematics, are symbols used for various purposes, including grouping and clarifying expressions, indicating the order of operations, representing sets, defining matrices, and denoting functions. There are different types of brackets, such as parentheses (round brackets), square brackets, curly braces (braces), and angle brackets (chevrons), each with specific applications. Brackets play a fundamental role in mathematics to ensure proper computation, notation, and clarity in mathematical expressions and concepts.
Definition of Brackets
Brackets in mathematics are symbols used to group and clarify expressions. They serve the purpose of indicating which calculations should be performed first. For example, consider the expression:
(3 + 5) * 2
In this case, the brackets ( )
indicate that the addition inside them should be done first, resulting in 8
, which is then multiplied by 2
to yield 16
.
Types of Brackets
Brackets come in various types, including:

 Parentheses (Round Brackets):
( )
 Square Brackets:
[ ]
 Curly Braces (Braces):
{ }
 Angle Brackets (Chevrons):
< >
 Parentheses (Round Brackets):
1. Parentheses (Round Brackets):
 Definition: Parentheses, often referred to as round brackets, are curved symbols
( )
used in mathematics for various purposes, such as grouping terms and indicating the order of operations.  Examples:
(x + 2) * (y  3)
(3 + 5) * 2
(a + b) / (c  d)
2. Square Brackets:
 Definition: Square brackets are symbols
[ ]
with four right angles. They are commonly used in mathematics for clarity, particularly in calculus and when denoting intervals.  Examples:
[f(x)]'
represents the derivative of the functionf(x)
.[0, 1]
represents a closed interval from0
to1
.
3. Curly Braces (Braces):
 Definition: Curly braces, often called braces, are symbols
{ }
used in mathematics for defining sets, functions, matrices, and indicating special notations.  Examples:
{1, 2, 3}
represents a set containing three elements.{x  x > 0}
defines the set of all positive real numbers.
4. Angle Brackets (Chevrons):
 Definition: Angle brackets, also known as chevrons, are symbols
< >
with pointed ends. They are used in mathematics, especially in vector calculus, for various applications.  Examples:
<u, v>
represents the inner product of vectorsu
andv
.<x  x > 0>
denotes the set of positive real numbers.
Using Brackets for Grouping
Using brackets for grouping is a fundamental concept in mathematics, helping to determine the order of operations and clarify expressions. Brackets indicate which calculations should be performed first, ensuring that mathematical expressions are evaluated correctly. Here’s a detailed explanation with examples:
Order of Operations:
Brackets are essential in establishing the order of operations in mathematical expressions. The standard order of operations is often remembered using acronyms like PEMDAS
P – Parentheses,(or brackets)
E – Exponents, (or order)
M – Multiplication
D – Division
A – Addition
S – Subtraction.
Order  Operation  Description  Symbol 

1  P (Parentheses)  Perform operations inside parentheses first.  ( ) 
2  E (Exponents)  Evaluate expressions with exponents.  ^ 
3  MD (Multiplication & Division)  Perform multiplication and division from left to right.  ×, ÷ 
4  AS (Addition & Subtraction)  Perform addition and subtraction from left to right.  +, – 
or BODMAS (Brackets, Orders, Division and Multiplication, Addition and Subtraction).
Example: Solve the expression 4 * (6 + 3)  {2 * (5  3) + 8}
.
Order of Operations:
 Parentheses (Round Brackets): Operations enclosed in parentheses should be performed first.
 Curly Braces (Braces): Operations enclosed in curly braces are the next priority.
 Multiplication and Division: Perform multiplication and division from left to right.
 Addition and Subtraction: Finally, perform addition and subtraction from left to right.
StepbyStep Solution:
 Inside the Round Brackets:
(6 + 3)
is calculated first, resulting in9
. The expression becomes4 * 9  {2 * (5  3) + 8}
.  Inside the Curly Braces: Now, let’s focus on the operations within the curly braces.
(5  3)
is calculated as2
. The expression becomes4 * 9  {2 * 2 + 8}
.  Multiplication and Division: Starting from left to right, perform multiplication and division. First,
2 * 2
is calculated as4
. The expression becomes4 * 9  {4 + 8}
.  Addition and Subtraction: Finally, calculate the remaining addition and subtraction operations. Inside the curly braces,
4 + 8
equals12
. The expression becomes4 * 9  12
.  Multiplication: Multiply
4
by9
, resulting in36
. The expression becomes36  12
.  Subtraction: Finally, subtract
12
from36
. The answer is24
.
Special Uses of Brackets
 Interval Notation: Brackets are used in interval notation to represent ranges of values. For example:
[0, 1]
represents a closed interval from0
to1
, including both endpoints.
 Matrix Notation: In matrix notation, square brackets are used to define matrices and their elements. Consider:
[A]
represents a matrixA
, and[a_ij]
represents the element in thei
th row andj
th column.
 Functions and Expressions: Brackets are used in mathematical functions to clarify their scope. For instance:
f(x)
represents a functionf
of the variablex
.
 Corrections and Clarifications: Brackets can be used to correct or clarify mathematical expressions, such as:
5  [3 + 2]
corrects a potential misunderstanding by indicating that the addition inside[ ]
should be done first.
Solved Examples on Brackets
Example 1: Simplify the expression: 3 * (4 + 2)  (5  1)
.
Solution:
 First, evaluate the operations within the parentheses:
(4 + 2)
equals6
.(5  1)
equals4
.
 Now, substitute these values back into the expression:
3 * 6  4
 Perform multiplication and subtraction:
18  4
 The final result is
14
.
Example 2: Solve the equation for x
: 2 * (3x + 1) = 16
.
Solution:
 First, simplify the expression within the parentheses:
3x + 1 = 16
 Isolate the variable
x
by moving1
to the other side of the equation:3x = 16  1
3x = 15
 Now, divide both sides by
3
to solve forx
:x = 15 / 3
x = 5
So, the solution to the equation 2 * (3x + 1) = 16
is x = 5
.
Example 3: Calculate the area of a rectangle with sides represented by the expressions: 2(3x + 4)
and 5(2x  1)
.
Solution:
 Calculate the length and width of the rectangle using the expressions:
 Length:
2(3x + 4)
 Width:
5(2x  1)
 Length:
 Expand the expressions:
 Length:
6x + 8
 Width:
10x  5
 Length:
 Now, use the formula for the area of a rectangle, which is
length × width
: Area =
(6x + 8)(10x  5)
 Area =
 Expand and simplify the expression for the area:
 Area =
60x^{2}  30x + 80x  40
 Area =
60x^{2} + 50x  40
 Area =
So, the area of the rectangle is 60xx^{2} + 50x  40
.
FAQs
1. What is the purpose of brackets in mathematics?
Brackets are used in mathematics to group terms and operations, indicating the order of operations and ensuring that calculations are performed correctly.
2. What are the different types of brackets used in mathematics?
There are several types of brackets, including parentheses (round brackets), square brackets, curly braces (braces), and angle brackets (chevrons).
3. How do I use brackets to simplify mathematical expressions?
To simplify expressions, follow the order of operations (PEMDAS/BODMAS), where operations within brackets are performed first. For example, in (3 + 5) * 2
, the addition inside the parentheses is done before multiplication.
4. Can I use brackets to change the order of operations?
Yes, brackets can be used to override the default order of operations. For instance, (3 + 5) * 2
ensures that the addition is performed before multiplication.
5. What is the significance of square brackets in mathematics?
Square brackets are commonly used to denote intervals, represent the greatest integer function, and clarify expressions, especially in calculus.
6. How are curly braces (braces) used in mathematics?
Curly braces are used to define sets, functions, matrices, and special notations in mathematics. They help specify elements or conditions within a set.
7. Do angle brackets have specific applications in mathematics?
Angle brackets (chevrons) are used in vector calculus and other mathematical contexts to denote inner products, special notations, or comparisons.
8. Are brackets used differently in different countries or regions?
While the basic use of brackets is consistent in mathematics worldwide, there may be variations in terminology and notation preferences in different countries.
9. Can I use brackets to change the priority of operations in an equation?
Yes, you can use brackets to change the priority of operations in an equation. They allow you to specify which calculations should be performed first.
10. Are there any rules for combining different types of brackets in an expression? – It’s essential to use brackets in pairs and follow the appropriate nesting order. For example, you can use parentheses within square brackets: [ (3 + 5) * 2 ]
.