Bernard asks:

> -2|3-4-5| = -12 or +12?

I can’t figure out any reasonable way in which you can get +12 from this. If you wanted to quibble over anything, it would be over the order of the subtractions:

(3-4)-5 = -6

3-(4-5) = 4

But, in any case, the first order is standard. So now the question is how to interpret the following:

-2|-6|

It doesn’t matter whether you interpret this as this:

-(2|-6|) = -(2(6))

or as this:

(-2)|-6| = (-2)(6)

because in either case the answer is -12. So how can you get +12? Is the claim being made that absolute value bars suck all the numbers next to them inside them, so that you get:

-2|-6| = |(-2)(-6)| = |12| = 12

If that’s the question, the answer is no, absolute value bars don’t suck numbers inside them, anymore than parentheses suck numbers inside them. You have to do everything inside the bars first, then apply the absolute value to the resulting number, and only then do stuff outside the bars.

(Although qualifications are generally irrelevant on the SDMB, if the person you’re debating with asks, you can tell him that I have a master’s degree in math and work as a mathematician.)