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The Math Equation That Tried to Stump the Internet

Sometimes BODMAS is just PEMDAS by another name. And no, the answer is not 100.

Mathematical Twitter is normally a quiet, well-ordered place, a refuge from the aggravations of the internet. But on July 28, someone who must have been a troll off-duty decided to upset the stillness, and did so with a surefire provocation.

It has to do with something that high school teachers call “the order of operations.” The latest blowup concerned this seemingly simple question:

Many respondents were certain the answer was 16. Others heard Yanny, not Laurel, and insisted the right answer was 1. That’s when the trash talking began. “Some of y’all failed math and it shows,” said one. Another posted a photo showing that even two different electronic calculators disagreed. The normally reassuring world of math, where right and wrong exist, and logic must prevail, started to seem troublingly, perhaps tantalizingly, fluid.

The question above has a clear and definite answer, provided we all agree to play by the same rules governing “the order of operations.” When, as in this case, we are faced with several mathematical operations to perform — to evaluate expressions in parentheses, carry out multiplications or divisions, or do additions or subtractions — the order in which we do them can make a huge difference.

When confronted with 8 ÷ 2(2+2), everyone on Twitter agreed that the 2+2 in parentheses should be evaluated first. That’s what our teachers told us: Deal with whatever is in parentheses first. Of course, 2+2 = 4. So the question boils down to 8÷2×4.

And there’s the rub. Now that we’re faced with a division and a multiplication, which one takes priority? If we carry out the division first, we get 4×4 = 16; if we carry out the multiplication first, we get 8÷8 = 1.

Which way is correct? The standard convention holds that multiplication and division have equal priority. To break the tie, we work from left to right. So the division goes first, followed by the multiplication. Thus, the right answer is 16.

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More generally, the conventional order of operations is to evaluate expressions in parentheses first. Then you deal with any exponents. Next come multiplication and division, which, as I said, are considered to have equal priority, with ambiguities dispelled by working from left to right. Finally come addition and subtraction, which are also of equal priority, with ambiguities broken again by working from left to right.


Read more writing in The Times from Steven Strogatz about math


To help students in the United States remember this order of operations, teachers drill the acronym PEMDAS into them: parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction. Other teachers use an equivalent acronym, BODMAS: brackets, orders, division and multiplication, and addition and subtraction. Still others tell their pupils to remember the little ditty, “Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally.”

[This math problem isn’t the first time the internet has stood divided. Remember Yanny and Laurel? How about the color of this dress?]

Now realize, following Aunt Sally is purely a matter of convention. In that sense, PEMDAS is arbitrary. Furthermore, in my experience as a mathematician, expressions like 8÷2×4 look absurdly contrived. No professional mathematician would ever write something so obviously ambiguous. We would insert parentheses to indicate our meaning and to signal whether the division should be carried out first, or the multiplication.

The last time this came up on Twitter, I reacted with indignation: It seemed ridiculous that we spend so much time in our high-school curriculum on such sophistry. But now, having been enlightened by some of my computer-oriented friends on Twitter, I’ve come to appreciate that conventions are important, and lives can depend on them. We know this whenever we take to the highway. If everyone else is driving on the right side of the road (as in the U.S.), you would be wise to follow suit. The same goes if everyone else is driving on the left, as in the United Kingdom. It doesn’t matter which convention is adopted, as long as everyone follows it.

Likewise, it’s essential that everyone writing software for computers, spreadsheets and calculators knows the rules for the order of operations and follows them. For the rest of us, the intricacies of PEMDAS are less important than the larger lesson that conventions have their place. They are the double-yellow line down the center of the road — an unending equals sign — and a joint agreement to understand one another, work together, and avoid colliding head-on. Ultimately, 8 ÷ 2(2+2) is less a statement than a brickbat; it’s like writing the phrase “Eats shoots and leaves” and concluding that language is capricious. Well, yes, in the absence of punctuation, it is; that’s why we invented the stuff.

So on behalf of all math teachers, please excuse us for drilling your younger selves on this tedium. My daughters spent weeks on it each school year for several years of their education, as if training to become automatons. No wonder so many students come to see math as an inhuman, meaningless collection of arbitrary rules and procedures. Clearly, if this latest bout of confusion on the internet is any indication, many students are failing to absorb the deeper, essential lesson. Perhaps it’s time to stop excusing dear Aunt Sally and instead embrace her.

Better still would be to teach everyone how to write unambiguous math expressions, and then all of this would go away. For those students destined to become software designers, writing code that can handle ambiguous expressions reliably whenever they arise, by all means exhume Aunt Sally from her crypt. For everyone else, let’s spend more time teaching our students the more beautiful, interesting and uplifting parts of mathematics. Our marvelous subject deserves better.

Steven Strogatz is a professor of mathematics at Cornell and the author of “Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe.”

Sours: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/02/science/math-equation-pedmas-bemdas-bedmas.html

10 viral math equations that stumped the internet

christmas prince Math
Netflix
  • A viral math equation with two solutions confused Facebook users.
  • A seemingly simple math problem went viral on YouTube because of two different versions of the order of operations.
  • The way a teacher graded a Common Core math quiz caused a firestorm on Reddit.

Math comes naturally to some, but even simple equations remain baffling brainteasers to others.

These math equations went viral for being much more complicated than they seemed — or so simple that people got tripped up overthinking them.

Keep reading and try to figure out these 10 math problems that confused people across the internet.

This viral math question has two solutions.

viral math equation
Tomasina DiMatteo/Facebook

Spotted on The Daily Mail, the question was originally created by Go Tumble and shared on Wikr before taking off on Facebook and going viral.

There are two correct ways to solve it. The first way to find the solution is to add the equation, then combine the sum with that of the previous equation. The second solution involves multiplying the second number of the equation by the number you are adding to it. The correct answer could either be 40 or 96.

Here's a full explanation of the answer.

This seemingly simple math problem racked up over five million views on YouTube.

viral math problem
MindYourDecisions/YouTube

The correct way to solve this problem is to use the modern interpretation of the order of operations, also known as PEMDAS or BODMAS:

  • Parentheses/Brackets
  • Exponents/Orders
  • Multiplication-Division
  • Addition-Subtraction
  • If same precedence, left to right

The correct answer is 9, but controversy ensued because the historical order of operations from before 1917 differs slightly. With that version of the rules, which is still taught in many schools, the answer would be 1.

Here's a full explanation of the answer.

This Common Core math quiz caused a firestorm on Reddit.

viral math reddit
Cloakenn/Imgur

The first question asks the student to calculate 5 x 3 using repeated addition. The student wrote 5 + 5 + 5 = 15, and was marked wrong, with the teacher writing in the "correct" solution of 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 = 15.

The second question prompts the student to calculate 4 x 6 using an array. The student drew an array with six rows and four columns, getting the answer that 4 x 6 = 24. The teacher marked the question wrong again and drew in a nearly identical array of four rows and six columns.

"The idea that a student should be punished for recognizing and applying the fundamental truth of commutative multiplication in service of drilling in a completely arbitrary convention that they can easily learn when they need it 10 years later strikes me as borderline insane," Andy Kiersz of Business Insider wrote.

Read the full explanation here.

This math problem from Singapore went viral in the US.

viral math question birthdays
Kennethjanwen/Facebook

Kenneth Kong, a television host in Singapore, shared a photo of this 5th grade-level math question in a since-deleted Facebook post, which was shared nearly 6,000 times.

In the logic puzzle, Cheryl gives her friends Albert and Bernard different clues as to when her birthday is out of a selection of dates. She tells Albert only the day and Bernard only the month of her birthday.

By making a table of the dates and using the process of elimination, one can determine that Cheryl's birthday is July 16.

Read More: People are calling this SAT math question the 'meanest test problem ever' — see if you can solve it

It was later revealed that this problem wasn't a regular test question used in Singapore classrooms. It was actually used in a contest as part of the Singapore and Asian Schools Math Olympiad (SASMO).

The New York Times published a detailed explanation of the solution, which you can read here.

This word problem is a trick question.

viral math quora
Quora

Nothing is actually missing here — it's just deliberately confusing wording. It all adds up if you look at the total, not the debt owed.

Twitter user Mat Whitehead laid it out in a table to show that there's not a missing $1 after all, which you can view here.

Read More: 15 tricky children's test questions that stumped the internet

This math question from Vietnam isn't that difficult, but extremely time consuming.

viral math vietnam test
VNEXPRESS

The challenge: use each digit 1-9 only once to fill in the snake and make the equation equal 66 (colons are division signs).

According to VNEXPRESS, this puzzle is meant for third graders. There's no trick or complicated math necessary — finding the correct configuration of numbers comes down to trial and error and process of elimination.

Here's a tip: it's easier if you rewrite the snake as an equation and follow the order of operations.

Here's a full explanation of the answer from The Guardian.

More than 50% of students at Harvard, MIT, and Princeton got this question wrong.

viral math bat ball
INSIDER

It seems obvious that the answer is 10 cents, right? Wrong!

One dollar is only 90 cents more than 10 cents, not a full dollar more. The correct answer is five cents: $0.05 + $1.05 = $1.10.

Here's a full explanation of the answer.

Allegedly, only one out of 10 people could ace his math quiz without a calculator.

viral math chalkboard
Sours: https://www.insider.com/hard-viral-math-questions-2017-12
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This Maths Puzzle is Baffling Facebook

The internet is an interesting place. I’m often told that people are being ‘baffled’ or ‘stumped’ by ‘maths puzzles’ – despite the fact that many people find maths intimidating, or didn’t get on well with it at school, they’re still prepared to spend their leisure time being tortured by problems they can’t seem to solve. (I suspect ‘This maths puzzle is being totally ignored by Facebook’ makes for a less interesting headline.)

One such puzzle is given below – using symbols to represent some unknown numbers, can you work out the answer?

In this case the symbols are burgers, fries and drinks; the same problem has also been presented in terms of burgers, bottles of beer and glasses of beer, but any three emoji, pictures or symbols could be substituted in for them. In fact, it’s something mathematicians do all the time, except we tend to use more boring prosaic symbols like ‘x’, and ‘π’. (I guess using emoji would open up our options further – and there is already an emoji LaTeX package, for those who want to typeset it properly.)

The reason why people find these problems so ‘baffling’ is that the setters have deliberately made them so – using some tricks to nudge people towards incorrect answers, then allowing a stream of commenters to berate them when they make a mistake. One such technique is using different numbers of items in different lines. Above, the 🍟 in the third line are in pairs, whereas the fourth line has a single packet of 🍟. While it’s easy to see this when you look carefully, you might not notice it on a quick scan of the image.

Another trick is combining operations without specifying the order – for example, the fourth line above reads “🍔 + 🍟 × 🥤= ?”. But does this mean you add the 🍔 and 🍟, then multiply by 🥤, or do you multiply 🍟 by 🥤 then add 🍔? In processing a sequence of operations like this, the natural thing might be to work from left to right, processing each command one at a time: start with a 🍔, add 🍟, then multiply by 🥤. But in school we learn that operations have a standard order, and if you’ve heard the word BODMAS, or BEDMAS, you’ll know that multiplication (M) comes before addition (A), and should be resolved first.

The thing is, the way the problem is written seems to deliberately be trying to trip you up. The setter could have written “🍟 × 🥤+ 🍔= ?”, which wouldn’t have been quite so difficult to parse. Or, they could have done the proper mathematical thing, and used brackets:  “🍔 + ( 🍟 × 🥤) = ?” Most people working properly in mathematics will tell you that BODMAS is irrelevant, because you can always use brackets to disambiguate.

The worst culprits are those who do even tricksier things to confuse you. The example below, shared as a problem given to Chinese school children which subsequently ‘stumped the internet’, includes a picture of a cat – and if you look closely you’ll see the cat sometimes is wearing a whistle, and other times isn’t. The whistle is one of the unknowns in the puzzle, so ‘cat with whistle’ has a different value to ‘cat without whistle’. Most people won’t spot this on first glance, meaning they’ll get the wrong answer even if their maths is flawless.

This kind of manipulation is wasting people’s time at best, and actively unhelpful at worst – given people are already predisposed to fear maths, giving them what looks like a simple problem, then exposing them to the cruelty of social media comments sections when they get the wrong answer is surely only going to make them feel even worse about it. This blog post from 2017, by a maths teacher and education professor, shares some more detailed thoughts on the phenomenon.

That said, it’s a good sign that people are prepared to have a go at a maths thing they see on Facebook – they might enjoy the tiny buzz of solving the puzzle, and appreciate a chance to flex their maths muscles. It’s also been noted by educators that using pictorial symbols or emoji instead of algebraic variables increases many students’ ability to understand and solve this kind of problem – the website solvemoji.com has hundreds of such problems, free for educators to use.

Also, students can apparently tackle much more difficult problems in this form than they would be prepared to in a traditional setting. The examples pictured above are both systems in three variables – much more complex than many school children would usually be expected to solve.

When mathematicians are faced with systems of equations like this – called simultaneous equations – they can be categorised and understood pretty well. If all the operations are addition or subtraction, or multiplying a variable by a number, the equations are called linear.

For example, “🐶+ ☕☕ = 🍭🍭🍭🍭🍭”, also known as “🐶+ 2 ☕ = 5 🍭” is a linear equation, as the only multiplying that happens is between an emoji and a constant number (not a variable that we need to find the value of).

Linear equations behave in a nice predictable way – if all the equations in a system are linear, and you have 3 variables to find, you will need at least 3 equations that relate the variables to each other in order to find a single solution. For example, using only the second equation in the fast food example at the start, we couldn’t say for sure what either of the values are, but if we combine it with the other equations we can fix the values. In general, the number of equations relating the variables needs to be greater than or equal to the number of variables.

However, linear equations aren’t the whole story, and in the fast food and whistle cat examples above, there’s an extra complication introduced in the last line. When you multiply a cat by a whistle, or a 🍟by a 🥤, the equation becomes nonlinear – these are polynomial equations. In this case, the same number of equations as variables might not be enough to fix a single answer – for example, 🍟× 🍟= 4 has both 🍟= 2 and 🍟= -2 as a solution. If you have a mixture of linear and nonlinear equations, you can try solving the linear ones first and then substitute in the number values to make the nonlinear ones a bit easier.

One interesting point to consider here is that in these problems imply a secret additional set of restrictions on the answers, without actually saying it. In the previous paragraph, I casually mentioned the idea of 🍟= -2, but many people approaching this problem wouldn’t consider the possibility of the symbols representing anything other than a positive whole number. While 🍭= ½ is strictly possible, what if we ruled it out?

In the case where you’re only interested in whole number solutions, equations and systems of simultaneous equations like these take on a new name. Called Diophantine equations, and named after the 3rd century Greek mathematician Diophantus of Alexandria, they require the solutions to be integers (whole numbers). Diophantus was one of the first mathematicians to introduce the idea of symbolism into algebra, and only a few short millennia have taken us from there to🥤+ 🍔+ 🍔= 20.

Title page of the 1621 edition of Diophantus' Arithmetica

Diophantine equations are slightly more restricted in their possible solutions than general equations – for example, if I told you that I had two different numbers that added to 3, you’d be able to find infinitely many sets of solutions – say, n, which can be any value (except 1.5, as the numbers must be different), and 3-n. But if I tell you they’re both whole numbers (and I require them to be positive), you can immediately tell me the answers are 1 and 2.

This type of equation also allows for interesting methods of attack. With a single equation in two variables, you can use the Euclidean algorithm, first finding the factors in common between the coefficients given and then working backwards to determine what combinations will give you a valid answer in whole numbers.

Other types of maths problem sometimes also turn out to be based on Diophantine equations. If you’ve ever encountered the classic water-jug-pouring type problems, where you have set sizes of containers and need to end up with an exact amount of water in one of them, that isn’t a whole multiple of one of the container sizes, this is actually a Diophantine equation.

For example, if you have one container that holds 3 litres and one that holds 5 litres, it’s possible to measure out 4 litres – and you’ll do this effectively by adding or subtracting full jugs of 3 and 5 litres. So the problem can be formulated as 3x + 5y = 4, where x and y will be positive (or negative) whole numbers representing the aggregate number of times each jug is filled or emptied. For the most elegant (if slightly sweary) solution to this particular problem, I direct you to the work of my fellow mathematicians Bruce Willis and Samuel L Jackson in one scene from Die Hard 3.

Posted by Katie Steckles

is a mathematician based in Manchester, who gives talks and workshops on different areas of maths. She finished her PhD in 2011, and since then has talked about maths in schools, at science festivals, on BBC radio, at music festivals, as part of theatre shows and on the internet. Katie writes blog posts and editorials for The Aperiodical, a semi-regular maths news site.

Sours: https://scilogs.spektrum.de/hlf/this-maths-puzzle-is-baffling-facebook/
KFC Math Equation Problem - Drink Burger and Fries Facebook Twitter Whatsapp Viral Puzzle

Ever wanted to tear your hair out and question everything you've ever learned about math? Well, thanks to the website Brain Dare, you can. The company recently posted a math puzzle to its Facebook page that's made the internet divide into two categories based on answers.

Take a look at the puzzle below and determine your own answer.

Answer : http://www.braindare.com/result/OTY=

Posted by Brain Dare on Saturday, April 16, 2016

Did you get 40? Or 96? Though Brain Dare states that 96 is the correct answer, other users are claiming that both can be correct. Brain Dare figured out its answer with multiplication. To begin, you multiply the first number by the second number. For example, 1 x 4 = 4. Then, add that result to the first number and you'll arrive at the answer after the equal sign; for the first line it's 5.

But some people arrived at the answer 40 sans multiplication. Instead, they just added the answer of the first line (5) to the next one. So, 5 + 2 = 7. Add the 5 in the previous answer and you'll get to the answer 12. If you follow it all the way through, you'll arrive at 40.

People in the comments are arguing about which answer is actually right. Some just want Brain Dare to acknowledge that math puzzles such as these can have two answers. The puzzle is clearly extremely popular, considering the post has more than 2,000 reactions, 7,000 comments, and 2,000 shares. At the POPSUGAR offices, we're also torn and finding these two answers as well.

If you want to drive yourself crazy with another brain teaser, try this one involving fruit from a few months ago.

Sours: https://www.popsugar.com/tech/Facebook-Math-Puzzle-41162536

Problems facebook on math picture

This Viral Math Problem Has the Internet in a Frenzy

Mathematics is a fundamental part of anyone's elementary and high school education. Students are taught from an early age how to add, subtract, multiply and divide numbers to solve equations.

But for many, a viral tweet is driving them crazy, with users producing different answers and vehemently disagreeing about the course of action required to solve the problem.

Twitter user @lesvity, who goes by the name The LUVITY on the platform, posted a basic algebra equation on Sunday afternoon: 6÷2(1+2). The tweet was captioned, "How can you guys get anything other than 7..."

The seemingly mundane equation quickly became a topic of controversy in the comments.

Users like @matteewyd, also known as Mattee Clownee, explained that the PEMDAS principle is required to solve the problem. As explained by Khan Academy, PEMDAS is "the order of operations ... that tells the correct sequence of steps for evaluating a math expression ... Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication and Division, Addition and Subtraction."

With Clownee's logic, the addition of 1 and 2 needs to be solved first, as they are in a pair of parentheses. After solving and getting 3 as the answer, they multiplied it by the 2 to get 6, and dividing 6 by itself produces 1.

Thalia Reid, or user @lia_gravity, agreed with Clownee. "I [swear to God] I hate when someone brings math on this [motherf*****g] app bc y'all embarrass yourselves every damn time," she wrote. "If you still ain't get it ima pray for you."

User @ChangkyunWifey, also known as Ruki, disagreed: "The correct answer is 9." They also utilized PEMDAS to get 3 from the 1+2 in parentheses but proceeded to finish the equation going from left to right. Rather than multiplying the 2 and 3, they divided the 6 by 2 to get 3. The 3 multiplied by itself then equals 9.

"Write it into a calculator if u don't believe it," they said, before noting, "I'm really bad at math tho."

Alternatively, anonymous tweeter @sheisonfieryice agreed with The LUVITY's original answer of 7. Rather than solve 1+2 in the parentheses, they distributed the outside 2 to the 1 and 2, which via multiplication yields 2 and 4. They divided the 6 by 2 to get 3, and after adding the 4 received a final answer of 7.

User @itsmagik_, also known as Kamila Soto, explained: "the reason why people are getting different answers," focusing on the larger debate between 1 and 9, it depends on how the equation is written.

If the problem is written as if 6 were being divided by 2(1+2), the answer does yield 1. However, if it is written as the fraction 6/2 to be multiplied by 1+2, the order of distribution gives an answer of 9.

Others kept the discourse more lighthearted, with one person named Mel joking, "This is making me rethink who [I'm] friends with" after their friends produced varying results. "Schools must really suck these days," another user named Zora chimed in.

This isn't the first time in recent months Twitter has gone into a frenzy over mathematics. Back in November, Twitter users were amazed by MSNBC's Steve Kornacki's quick on-air math during the election season.

Sours: https://www.newsweek.com/this-viral-math-problem-has-internet-frenzy-1584710
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Sours: https://integraterichar.blogspot.com/2021/10/facebook-picture-math-problems-bitcoin.html

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There it appeared on Twitter, like a cruel taunt:

This content is imported from Twitter. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

Every few months, the Internet eats itself over some kind of viral riddle or illusion, each more infuriating than the last. And so, like clockwork, this maddening math problem has gone viral, following in the grand tradition of such traumatic events as The Dress and Yanny/Laurel.

These kinds of conundrums are purposely meant to divide and conquer, and predictably, the seemingly simple problem posed in the offending tweet—8÷2(2+2)—practically caused a civil war in the Popular Mechanics office, which we also share with our (former) friends at Runner’s World and Bicycling magazines.

Naturally, we took to Slack to hash out our differences. Here’s a heated chat between the editors who stopped doing any semblance of actual work for the day to solve an equation designed to flummox fourth graders—and make many enemies in the process—followed by insight from real mathematicians and physicists who begrudgingly responded to our request for comment to solve the enraging math debate, once and for all.

The Slack War, Part I

Derek Call, video producer: 8 divided by 8 is 1.

Jeff Dengate, Runner’s World runner-in-chief: PEMDAS. 16.

Bobby Lea, test editor (and three-time Olympic cyclist): i ride bikes

Pat Heine, video producer: ...she writes out PEMDAS and then does PEDMAS

Matt: you clearly didn't listen

Pat: i didn't...i was busy correcting her math.

Derek: When they reinvent math?

Matt: ok, Derek, the video's for you

Pat: if you get 16 it's because you don't know the difference between brackets and parentheses.

Wikipedi

Morgan Petruny, test editor: I agree with Derek and disagree with YouTube. What if you want to do it the long way and use the distributive property and distribute the 2 first? You would do: 8 / (4+4) = 1.

Or does the distributive property suddenly no longer apply?

That's what I would say proves that 1 is correct.

Derek: I trust Morgan because she's had a math class this decade.

Pat: Wikipedia says you hate America if you get 16.

Wikipedia

Dan Roe, test editor: Right but it's multiplication/division, not multiplication then division

Morgan: BUT multiplication with parentheses trumps division. So you still have 8 / 2(4). So you have to do the 2x4 first. At least, that is what I was taught.

Dan: smart Berkley people say it's too ambiguous to say; PEMDAS isn't a mathematical convention as much as a teaching method

Pat: multiplication/division::right/wrong

Taylor Rojek, associate features editor: Biggest takeaway isn't that anyone sucks at doing math, but that this person sucks at writing out clear equations

Bill Strickland, editorial director: MAKE IT CONTENT!

instagram story with our staff debating?

can we call a famous mathematician?

Bobby: This sounds like a conversation the belongs on the Not My Job segment of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me

Katie Fogel, social media editor: polling our IG audience on this now...

Pat: The equation is not written according to ISO standards, leaving ambiguity of interpretation and the real answer is we need to teach better math writing.

Ambiguous PEMDAS

Ambiguous problems, order of operations, PEMDAS, BEMDAS, BEDMAS

aka...what Taylor said, but from Harvard

Morgan: aka...teach the distributive property instead of random acronyms

Pat: When written according to ISO standard, the answer is 1.

Pat Heine

Andrew Daniels, how-to editor: honestly, we could post this slack thread word for word and then get a scholar to chime in and school us

Katie Fogel: From our IG audience...

Katie Fogel/Instagram

Kit Fox, special projects editor: Isn’t the question and ambiguity here on when the parentheses disappear? Like, do the parens stick around after you do 2 + 2? Or do they go away once you solve the mini equation inside the parens first. I say they do not go away. I am on team 1

I also have not taken a math class in over 10 years

Trevor Raab, photographer: My question is to what real world scenario would this apply to

Brad Ford, test editor: Math class?

Trevor: ahh the classic learn to do math to learn to do more math

Bobby: school ain't real world

Morgan: Generating heated and polarizing office discussion

Brad: Bobby, tell that to a 6th grader.

Bobby: i'll work on preparing my argument now

Taylor: You've got, what, 11 years to perfect it

Bobby: time is on my side

which is code for: I can put this off for a reeeaaaalllly long time

Pat: which is code for "ask your mother"

Bobby: she likes to claim she's good at math. She may come to rue the day she bragged about that

Pat: "This won't help me win millions of dollars playing Fortnite tho"

A Brief Statement from Mike Breen, the Public Awareness Officer for the American Mathematical Society, Whose Job Is to “Try to Tell People How Great Math Is”

According to order of operations, you solve whatever is in the parentheses first. That gives you 4. Then, in PEMDAS, multiplication and division take equal precedence, so you’d do the first that occurs from left to right. So you’d do 8 divided by 2 first, which is 4. Thus, it’s 16 according to classic order of operations.

But the way it’s written, it’s ambiguous. In math, a lot of times there are ambiguities. Mathematicians try to make rules as precise as possible. According to strict order of operations, you’d get 16, but I wouldn’t hit someone on the wrist with a ruler if they said 1.

The Slack War, Part II

Andrew: hooooo boy

i just got off the phone with the american mathematical society

what a rollercoaster this is turning out to be

my man mike with the AMS, whose job it is to explicitly answer questions like this one, says the answer is ...

Brad: 42

Tyler Daswick, associate features editor: secretly the best answer here

Andrew: SIXTEEN

Andrew, minutes later: why is no one reacting appropriately to this news

Brad: Because he's wrong.

Trevor: but doesn’t that go against PEMDAS?

Andrew: he says (and i'll have to go back to the transcript) that using *traditional* order of operations, the answer is 16

Matt Phillips, senior test editor: Andrew, my brother has a PhD in theoretical physics and writes papers with titles like… “Angular Dependence for ν‘, j’-Resolved States in F + H2 → HF(ν‘, j’) + H Reactive Scattering Using a New Atomic Fluorine Beam Source” I can see if he wants to weigh in…

Andrew: yes! please do [Editor's note: Matt's brother hasn't responded.]

Taylor: is there a way that 1 is also a valid answer for this?

Trevor: PEMDAS

Andrew: i'll also fire off the request to my go-to physicist who also just answered the POP question of how to jump from a moving train

Taylor: tbh it would be awesome if we could find experts who disagree

Trevor: wait revisited my interpretation of PEMDAS back to 16

this is why I went to art school

Taylor: I asked my friend [REDACTED], who is about to graduate with her phd in statistics from [REDACTED] and has three or four math masters degrees

and i am so pleased to report she's on my side

Taylor Rojek

Derek: [REDACTED] wins

Andrew: but what did [REDACTED] say was the answer??!

Taylor: there is no answer, fake question designed to stoke outrage

Bill: maybe our smart take is: math is not subjective, nobody writes math like this, here is what's wrong

Taylor: she's just getting started

Taylor Rojek

Kit: Sounds like [REDACTED] needs to write the sweaty math take

Andrew: daaaaang [REDACTED]

go off

Bobby: no we're onto something!

A Parting Shot from Rhett Allain, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Physics at Southeastern Louisiana University, Who Delivered the Final Verdict and Decisively Shut Us All Up

This is the math version of, ‘What color is this dress? Blue and black or gold and white?’ My answer is that you do parentheses first, so that becomes:
8/2*4
Next, you go from left to right.
8/2 is 4, so it is
4*4
Now you get 16.
Of course this isn't math. This is convention. We have conventions on how to write these things just like we have conventions on how to spell stuff. But still, there are different conventions. Some people spell it as ‘gray’ and others as ‘grey.’ We still understand what's going on. For me, I would write this more explicitly so that there is no confusion. Like this:
8/(2*(2+2)), if that's what you are trying to do. That way no one will get it wrong.

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Andrew DanielsAndrew Daniels is the Senior Editor for Popular Mechanics.

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