# Can You Solve It? Simple Math Equation Goes Viral Since People Can’t Agree On One Answer

When I graduated from university, I thought that was the last time I’d have to do any serious mathematics. Boy, was I wrong. Not only do I still have to help my sisters out with their elementary school maths homework (trust me, it’s surprisingly difficult), but every time I log into Facebook, there’s always some tantalizing equation thrown at me, asking me to solve it.

“Only 1 in 1,000,000 people can solve this simple equation” — we’ve all seen taunts like these, inviting us to dust off our noggins and get our hands dirty with deceptively basic calculations. Well, here’s the newest ‘simple’ equation to go viral on the internet: 8 ÷ 2(2+2) = ? Have you worked out the answer yet? Are you sure? Have you double-checked everything? Did you show your work? Good!

### This equation looks simple enough, right? Right?

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Odds are that you got one of two answers: you either belong to the huge swathe of internet users who got 1 or you’re one of the people whose answer is 16. The internet is raging with amateur and professional mathematicians debating what the real answer is. There may have been some arguments over who’s right. And some shouting. Maybe even some shoving.

Some internet users used calculators to show everyone that the answer was 16. Others referred to their ‘maths degrees’ as an appeal of authority to demonstrate that the answer was 1. Others still took this equation business a bit more seriously than you would expect, and suggested that both answers were correct… depending on what rules you use to figure out the answer.

### People couldn’t agree whether the answer to the equation was 1 or 16

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The reason why there’s a lack of consensus regarding this equation is a fairly simple one. Different people are using different rules about what order everything should be calculated in. Whether, after adding 2 and 2 together in the brackets, you should divide 8 by 2 first or multiply what’s in the brackets by 2, instead. This sounds like a basic disagreement, but people got very heated over this.

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Robert Glenn Howard, a social psychologist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, told Slate that such equations are the same as riddles and games, and people get heated over such things because Facebook and other forums are a place for discussion: “People are already primed to engage in pretty intense deliberations, and that can bleed over into the way they play games.”

“Humans have used riddles as a form of play since ancient times,” Howard explained. “And sometimes people can get competitive and wrapped up in it.”

Just in case you were wondering, the answer to the equation is 16. No, wait. Never mind. Yep. Definitely 16. Definitely.

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### Some internet users delved way too deep into the rabbit hole that is Mathematics

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— 🇨🇲🇨 🇲🇪🇲🇪🇸 (@cmcmemes) July 28, 2019

This is why space ships explode.

You should be on top of the comments xD

This comment is hidden. Click here to view.

2ed

Do you want $16 or $1? Thus $16 wins!

😂😂

Lol

This comment has been deleted.

Jokes aside, yeah, there are plenty of s*** happens because paople can't even write the equitations right.

or write "equations" right

Normally pedants really annoy me. But this time it is appropriate. @ Burk.

This comment is hidden. Click here to view.

Burk Billin: Well, you know the joke with engineers and spelling. :D

This comment is hidden. Click here to view.

No. Spaceships explode because America hasn't adopted the metric system. That may be a good thing since too many people can't solve a basic math problem.

The problem is that some people are taking BODMAS and PEMDAS etc too literally. Even though Bodmas has Division before Multiplication and PEMDAS does the opposite, multiplication and division are EQUAL and therefore go left to right. Ditto addition and subtraction. Using PEMDAS order of operations, therefore, it is Parentheses, then Exponents, then Multiplication and Division, then Addition and Subtraction. There's no controversy here. There's only right and wrong.

@Teri Donovan thank you for explaining why I was wrong. I understand what you mean and it makes sense. Now I’ve learned something new, and upon further analyzing my post, I see where I went wrong.

Thank you this is how I was taught and I am glad to find someone who knows the same.

Yes! Bingo, that's the answer. If followed pedmas ppl get 1, but that's wrong. The acronym should be read as P/E/DM/AS, which gives the correct answer of 16. Like you said, the D and M are equal, so then all divide and multiply goes in order from left to right and same for A and S. Parentheses come first with the same order of operation followed within the parentheses first and then followed again out of the parentheses. I wonder why the ppl saying both answers are right think that?

I find it odd that people now call it "PEDMAS". I learned it as PEMDAS and either way works since M and D carry equal weight, but you can no longer remember it with the sentence Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally if you put the D before the M.

I like how you explain that. P/E/DM/AS is a good visual representation that's easy to understand.

@Alfred: 10000 would not be a correct answer, because '8' and '2' don't mean anything in binary. For the rest you are right. Both answers are correct, because we do not know which convention is used. In this iteration it is most likely asked just because different conventions are possible.

That's your interpretation of PEDMAS/PEMDAS. Any convention is open to interpretation, though some people will attempt to have the hard and fast 'rule'. Regardless, nobody is 'wrong' with 1 or 16, or another answer as long as they did their calculations correctly. If the question said "What is 8 / 2(2+2) using PEMDAS", then they could be considered wrong, but they didn't. 10000 is also a correct answer, even though you're probably thinking it's not because you assumed I was answering in decimal instead of binary... and that's no different from the assumption that we should use a particular order of operations.

This has nothing to do with doing division or multiplication first, it's about interpretation of the brackets & juxtaposition, as explained by the wikipedia article in one of the last posts. Apparently mathematicians disagree on whether 1 / 2x = (1 / 2)x

Dude I learned this on fifth grade and I'm in sixth grade right now this is easy crap

Thank you! have been trying to explain that too lots of people but they take it literally.

I thought the difference was what you consider “solve brackets first” to mean. I was taught “stop as soon as the brackets are no longer needed” while others learned “stop when you’ve gone through everything directly related to the brackets.” That means you either go 8/2(2+2)=8/2*(4)=8/2*4=4*4=16 or 8/2(2+2)=8/2*(4)=8/8=1. I’m not sure if one is definitively wrong or right; it’s a linguistic problem over a mathematical one (what the world “solve” means).

I learned PEMDAS differently...

I learned that in pemdas if you have the multiplication and division whichever comes first in the equation is the one you do first

The problem is what you do with (2+2) after you get "(4)". Do you then drop the parans and make it "4" or is it still "(4)". Depending on which you do, you will get 16 or 1. If you leave the parans, then it takes precedence to do first. If you drop them, then it's left to right. A computer will drop the paran and treat it as multiplication, with an integer. At least in python, that equation isn't even valid as written. It would be 8/2*(2+2) = 16.

4 with or without the parens doesn't matter. Because there is nothing to be solved if all you have is (4). 4 and (4) and the exact same, just 4

@Demonic cow- my phone does that a lot too! Why does it happen?

Honest question: if it were written 8/x(2+2), what would your answer be?

@ The Cappy I’m so glad people are starting to understand

That's really not the problem. [8÷2(4)] is [8÷2*4]. That's just a matter of notation. What's happening is that the (÷) and (*) operators have the same precedence, so it's performed left to right (just like (+) and (-) have the same precedence). Parentheses force things to happen first inside. But what happens to the product afterward wasn't affected by the parenthesis. The parentheses had shot their wad once they obtained (4). Really, the only controversy here has been that some people believe (*) should have had a higher precedence than (÷). Frankly, my own number theory comes from my 2 degrees in computer science. Since that's how we codified math in computers, I figured everybody had agreed on the order of operations. Apparently not though. Note, though, that everyone agrees (+) and (-) have the same precedence, and that you perform left to right. I suspect that (÷) and (*) should too, and that people are simply getting upset because they got the problem wrong.

This comment is hidden. Click here to view.

You are wrong John. Listen to Cappy. Just calculate like you read, from left to right as long as it is the same prority of operation.

This comment has been deleted.

Ever hear the term "Occam's razor." Simplest answer is the correct one. I can solve the equation in 3 simple steps. 1) always do the operation within brackets FIRST. So: 2+2=4. 2) 2x4=8 3) 8/8=1 Or, as we say in medicine...when you hear the galloping of hooves think "horses" not "zebras."

Sorry, my comments have double post syndrome, please don’t downvote.🙂

Really!? The answer is BROWN!

Is fish you idiot!

It’s bench!!!

Ow my spleen!

42!

Yes. The answer is always 42.

I can't believe there are people as stupid as you in the world... clearly it's 27.93 degrees Celsius

That’s 82.274 Fahrenheit if you please

The dress is blue!

Purple!

42!

This is why space ships explode.

You should be on top of the comments xD

This comment is hidden. Click here to view.

2ed

Do you want $16 or $1? Thus $16 wins!

😂😂

Lol

This comment has been deleted.

Jokes aside, yeah, there are plenty of s*** happens because paople can't even write the equitations right.

or write "equations" right

Normally pedants really annoy me. But this time it is appropriate. @ Burk.

This comment is hidden. Click here to view.

Burk Billin: Well, you know the joke with engineers and spelling. :D

This comment is hidden. Click here to view.

No. Spaceships explode because America hasn't adopted the metric system. That may be a good thing since too many people can't solve a basic math problem.

The problem is that some people are taking BODMAS and PEMDAS etc too literally. Even though Bodmas has Division before Multiplication and PEMDAS does the opposite, multiplication and division are EQUAL and therefore go left to right. Ditto addition and subtraction. Using PEMDAS order of operations, therefore, it is Parentheses, then Exponents, then Multiplication and Division, then Addition and Subtraction. There's no controversy here. There's only right and wrong.

@Teri Donovan thank you for explaining why I was wrong. I understand what you mean and it makes sense. Now I’ve learned something new, and upon further analyzing my post, I see where I went wrong.

Thank you this is how I was taught and I am glad to find someone who knows the same.

Yes! Bingo, that's the answer. If followed pedmas ppl get 1, but that's wrong. The acronym should be read as P/E/DM/AS, which gives the correct answer of 16. Like you said, the D and M are equal, so then all divide and multiply goes in order from left to right and same for A and S. Parentheses come first with the same order of operation followed within the parentheses first and then followed again out of the parentheses. I wonder why the ppl saying both answers are right think that?

I find it odd that people now call it "PEDMAS". I learned it as PEMDAS and either way works since M and D carry equal weight, but you can no longer remember it with the sentence Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally if you put the D before the M.

I like how you explain that. P/E/DM/AS is a good visual representation that's easy to understand.

@Alfred: 10000 would not be a correct answer, because '8' and '2' don't mean anything in binary. For the rest you are right. Both answers are correct, because we do not know which convention is used. In this iteration it is most likely asked just because different conventions are possible.

That's your interpretation of PEDMAS/PEMDAS. Any convention is open to interpretation, though some people will attempt to have the hard and fast 'rule'. Regardless, nobody is 'wrong' with 1 or 16, or another answer as long as they did their calculations correctly. If the question said "What is 8 / 2(2+2) using PEMDAS", then they could be considered wrong, but they didn't. 10000 is also a correct answer, even though you're probably thinking it's not because you assumed I was answering in decimal instead of binary... and that's no different from the assumption that we should use a particular order of operations.

This has nothing to do with doing division or multiplication first, it's about interpretation of the brackets & juxtaposition, as explained by the wikipedia article in one of the last posts. Apparently mathematicians disagree on whether 1 / 2x = (1 / 2)x

Dude I learned this on fifth grade and I'm in sixth grade right now this is easy crap

Thank you! have been trying to explain that too lots of people but they take it literally.

I thought the difference was what you consider “solve brackets first” to mean. I was taught “stop as soon as the brackets are no longer needed” while others learned “stop when you’ve gone through everything directly related to the brackets.” That means you either go 8/2(2+2)=8/2*(4)=8/2*4=4*4=16 or 8/2(2+2)=8/2*(4)=8/8=1. I’m not sure if one is definitively wrong or right; it’s a linguistic problem over a mathematical one (what the world “solve” means).

I learned PEMDAS differently...

I learned that in pemdas if you have the multiplication and division whichever comes first in the equation is the one you do first

The problem is what you do with (2+2) after you get "(4)". Do you then drop the parans and make it "4" or is it still "(4)". Depending on which you do, you will get 16 or 1. If you leave the parans, then it takes precedence to do first. If you drop them, then it's left to right. A computer will drop the paran and treat it as multiplication, with an integer. At least in python, that equation isn't even valid as written. It would be 8/2*(2+2) = 16.

4 with or without the parens doesn't matter. Because there is nothing to be solved if all you have is (4). 4 and (4) and the exact same, just 4

@Demonic cow- my phone does that a lot too! Why does it happen?

Honest question: if it were written 8/x(2+2), what would your answer be?

@ The Cappy I’m so glad people are starting to understand

That's really not the problem. [8÷2(4)] is [8÷2*4]. That's just a matter of notation. What's happening is that the (÷) and (*) operators have the same precedence, so it's performed left to right (just like (+) and (-) have the same precedence). Parentheses force things to happen first inside. But what happens to the product afterward wasn't affected by the parenthesis. The parentheses had shot their wad once they obtained (4). Really, the only controversy here has been that some people believe (*) should have had a higher precedence than (÷). Frankly, my own number theory comes from my 2 degrees in computer science. Since that's how we codified math in computers, I figured everybody had agreed on the order of operations. Apparently not though. Note, though, that everyone agrees (+) and (-) have the same precedence, and that you perform left to right. I suspect that (÷) and (*) should too, and that people are simply getting upset because they got the problem wrong.

This comment is hidden. Click here to view.

You are wrong John. Listen to Cappy. Just calculate like you read, from left to right as long as it is the same prority of operation.

This comment has been deleted.

Ever hear the term "Occam's razor." Simplest answer is the correct one. I can solve the equation in 3 simple steps. 1) always do the operation within brackets FIRST. So: 2+2=4. 2) 2x4=8 3) 8/8=1 Or, as we say in medicine...when you hear the galloping of hooves think "horses" not "zebras."

Sorry, my comments have double post syndrome, please don’t downvote.🙂

Really!? The answer is BROWN!

Is fish you idiot!

It’s bench!!!

Ow my spleen!

42!

Yes. The answer is always 42.

I can't believe there are people as stupid as you in the world... clearly it's 27.93 degrees Celsius

That’s 82.274 Fahrenheit if you please

The dress is blue!

Purple!

42!