Simple math equation ignites serious debate across the internet

May 19th, 2020

One of the fun things about the internet is you can find answers to just about anything. Whether those come from family members and friends or people across the world you’ve never met, you end up with a solution. Most of the time, that is.

But along with being a great gathering place for information and instructions, the internet has also become a platform for debate. As proven recently, a simple math equation started quite a firestorm. People from near and far were getting in on it, each with an opinion as to the correct answer.

The equation

The math equation in question is 8 ÷ 2(2+2) = ? ÷ 2(2+2) = ? Simple enough, right? Wrong. The individual who posted it claimed that just one in a million people can solve it. As you can imagine, that started things rolling.

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Unsplash/JESHOOTS Source: Unsplash/JESHOOTS

Divided opinions

In no time, people were posting what they believed to be the correct answer. But it quickly became apparent they didn’t all agree. After all, the answers were divided between 1 and 16.

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Unsplash/Antoine Dautry Source: Unsplash/Antoine Dautry

Using a calculator

For those who are naturally smart, they gave their opinion off the cuff. Others turned to their handy dandy calculator. But not everyone came up with the same number, meaning even the calculators couldn’t agree.

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Unsplash/Ray Reyes Source: Unsplash/Ray Reyes

Hot topic

When turning to the internet, you’ll have no problem finding people debating about politics. Some are strong Democrats while others are devout Republicans. But now, we see that’s not the only hot topic online.

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Unsplash/Dyana Wing So Source: Unsplash/Dyana Wing So

Proving intelligence

Even psychologists are getting in on the fun, posting their options. That doesn’t have anything to do with the answer to the math equation but rather the people fighting about it. Most of these professionals agree the tiffs going on are more about individuals trying to prove who’s smarter.

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Twitter@chrispetersBITW Source: Twitter@chrispetersBITW

Wasting time and energy

Sian Bielock, an Academic at the University of Chicago makes an excellent point. “These debates of who’s right and who’s wrong make people feel like jerks at the end once they realize they are investing too much time and energy convincing others why their answer is the best one.” So, who the wisest?

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Unsplash/Lorenzo Moschi Source: Unsplash/Lorenzo Moschi

More insight

Beilock has more insight to offer. “Often people feel the most stressed when the audience is made up of people they know. It’s very painful to fall on your face in front of your friends and family.” Another great point.

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Unsplash/Ivan Aleksic Source: Unsplash/Ivan Aleksic

Figuring it out

When looking at this particular math equation, most individuals online agreed the number within the parenthesis should be calculated first. Okay, but the challenge arises when they have to determine what comes next…division or multiplication. Based on what people choose, the answer differs…hence the war.

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Unsplash/Annie Spratt Source: Unsplash/Annie Spratt

Is it 16?

For this type of equation, students are taught to use the most common standard convention. That means operations are completed from the left to the right. So, the division would come first, making the answer 16. Or is it?

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Unsplash/Sincerely Media Source: Unsplash/Sincerely Media

Chiming in

Another expert in mathematics had this to say, “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. As a professor of mathematics at Cornell, he seems to know what he’s talking about.

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Cornell University Source: Cornell University

The bottom line

There could be two different answers to this simple math equation depending on how it’s calculated. But the war of words going on between people on the internet really doesn’t have much to do with math at all.

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Pexels/Polina Zimmerman Source: Pexels/Polina Zimmerman

For whatever reason, certain people just need to argue. Instead of just agreeing to disagree, they feel it boosts their ego to know or at least pretend they know the correct answer. You have to love social media.

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Source: Bored Daddy, Wikipedia