When I saw the above headline in my work queue my hands immediately started to sweat. My heart rate increased and I had a panicky feeling deep down in my soul. I had an actual physical reaction to the word “math.” In school, it was the one subject that gave me a ton of anxiety, and apparently, it hasn’t stopped.
However, I was determined to figure out this “simple” viral math problem. Which, in hindsight, may have been a lofty goal.
But, honestly, the math problem wasn’t too difficult. I didn’t even have to “show my work” as many math teachers love to see. I could do it all in my head, and that made me feel pretty giddy. Although, after doing a deep dive on the order of operations, I may be more confused than when I started.
So, what’s the problem? 8÷2(2+2). This is the little equation that’s causing such a ruckus on social media platforms and causing a rift between people from all walks of life.
On Twitter, where this all started, some users claiming to have math degrees say one answer. Many commenters are annoyed (or say they have lost all hope in humanity) because people get a different answer. What do you get?
All About Order Of Operations
The divide is clear. People typically either come to the solution of 1 or 16. Let’s break it down to see how you would get either answer.
I’m in camp A. I dug back deep into my brain and kinda remembered algebra classes from years ago. So, this is my disclaimer: I never claimed to be a mathlete. But, then I quickly came up with the answer of “1.” I was so excited that I had figured it out, and so easily. I mean, I must be a math whiz.
Then, I consulted my husband and to my surprise, he came back with the answer of “16.” I wasn’t feeling so giddy anymore. I approached it the way I was taught, PEMDAS. Meaning: parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction. In that order, except for addition and subtraction, which would be tackled from left to right.
Well, the other camp seems to think…no. These jokers think that multiplication and division are given equal importance and you would do what comes first from left to right. Okay, they’re likely not jokers. It’s definitely possible I was taught incorrectly and the answer could actually be 16.
So, Is It 1 Or 16?
I guess that’s the ultimate question. My husband had texted me the answer of 16, but then when I replied “16?!” he came back with the answer of 1, stating that he had forgotten the order of operations at first.
Next, I consulted my brother-in-law, the engineer. He also came up with an answer of 1. My sister was next; she always excelled in math. She too came up with the answer of 1.
The majority of people I asked (and an online poll) agreed that the answer is 1, and that’s good enough for me, at least at the moment.
However, several online forums and YouTube channels get an answer of 16. Honestly, I can’t think about it anymore and feel like there is a high probability that I was taught incorrectly. Feel free to hash it out in the comments if you feel the need!