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This Math Equation Is Breaking The Internet: Can You Solve It?

Equation, Math
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If you experience immense bouts of anxiety, panic, or worry when confronted with math problems, you are not alone. Mathemaphobia, otherwise known as mathematics anxiety, is real! And it has even been known to cause panic attacks in some.

It’s likely that children who have had a disdain for math during school years will probably do whatever they can to avoid any exercises that involve numbers as adults. If this sounds like you, then consider yourself warned. One of the most popular math problems taking social media by storm has now turned into one of the most problematic of problems. Arguments have begun erupting throughout social media on the formula for solving the problem, as well as what the correct answer is.

Before diving into the problem, prepare yourself, as this problem at first may appear to be straightforward, but don’t be fooled, as it’s likely your initial answer will be incorrect.

The Problem

Here’s the equation causing all the buzz:

6 ÷ 2 (1+2) =

Upon first glance, it’s seems easy to come up with the answer of 0, 1, 3, or 6. But as promised, the answers that seemed to be most obvious, are all incorrect (can’t say I didn’t warn you!).

You may be surprised to learn that the answer is actually 9.

The Solution

If you’re wondering, “How 9?!” here’s how you get the answer.

First, it is important when working with a problem like the one here to remember the acronym: PEMDAS /BODMAS when breaking down an equation.  

The acronym, also known as the “order of operations,” applies to all equations and is taught in schools. PEMDAS/BODMAS stands for:

Parenthesis/Brackets

Exponents/Orders

Multiplication – Division

Addition – Subtraction

Now let’s solve this equation!

  1. Solve the problem within the brackets first. 1+2, adds to 3. This now changes the equation to: “6 ÷ 2 (3).”
  2. Convert the 2(3) into 2 x 3, as the “Exponents/Orders” portion of PEMDAS/BODMAS demands you remove the brackets, leaving behind an order, which for this problem, is multiplication.
  3. Then move to the “Multiplication – Division” portion of the acronym. You now must carry out both, “6 ÷ 2 x 3.” When carrying both types of operations when solving equations, you must move from left to right. Making this equation “6 ÷ 2,” equaling 3, resulting in “3 x 3,” which equals 9.

Old School Theory

It is argued that there can be additional answers for this equation. Presh Talwalkar created the MindYourDecisions channel on YouTube including a video outlining the above steps. He believes that modern mathematicians would agree that the answer is actually 9, but states that there is a valid argument to be made in the correct answer actually being 1.

His argument states that in the early 20th centuries, the order of operations expressed by the PEMDAS/BODMAS acronym was different. Older mathematicians would not divide 6 by 2 and then multiply it by 3 (as outlined above). Instead they would divide 6 by 6, because they would be multiplying the 2 x 3 first. When you divide 6 by 6 you get 1, and with this method, the correct answer would, in fact, be 1.

Ultimately, you are not the only person to struggle with this problem, and with some answers having old school methods in finding the answer, it’s no wonder the debate. It’s true that almost all of us find no need to utilize the PEMDAS/BODMAS method in our everyday lives, which attributes to us rapidly forgetting how to apply the rules we once learned upon graduating. And with the internet available at our fingertips to solve pretty much any problem that comes our way, it’s likely we are hardly even freshening up our skills.

If you feel so inclined to brush up on your math skills so when problems like these arise, you are not left in the dark, websites like Math.com offer worksheets that teach math ranging from basic to advanced skill sets.

One thing we all can agree on is that regardless of your method of solving this equation, it is pretty interesting how one problem that seems so simple can cause quite a ruckus!

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Danielle Boroumand

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