Viral Math Problem 8÷2(2+2): The Answer to the Equation

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A viral math problem has taken the Internet by storm: 8÷2(2+2). The Internet, though, is completely divided over the correct answer.

It looks like it would probably be easy, but it isn’t. That’s because there are two possible answers and, as with the color of that dress or whether you heard Yanny or Laurel, the Internet is hopelessly polarized on the question (experts are too). There’s a trick to it because, as Mashable pointed out, how you solve it depends on where in the world you first learned math.

Here’s the tweet that started it all:

“i have 2 math degrees it’s 1,” wrote one woman on Twitter. However, another woman just as adamantly insisted: “16… this is embarrassing for some of y’all.”

But wait a minute:

Here’s what you need to know:

There are Two Possible Answers to the Math Equation

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According to Mashable, some people think the answer to the math equation is 16. Some people think it’s 1. People have even posted pictures of calculators on Twitter that show different answers for the viral math equation.

Popular Mechanics even admitted that the math equation drove its entire staff “insane.” Here’s an example from that article that shows even experts aren’t sure:

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

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

OK, but what is PEMDAS? “PEMDAS is an acronym for the words parenthesis, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction,” explains. “Given two or more operations in a single expression, the order of the letters in PEMDAS tells you what to calculate first, second, third and so on, until the calculation is complete.”

However, according to Fox News, either 1 or 16 is correct because there is also something called the BODMAS method, which stands for: “Brackets, Orders, Division, Multiplication, Addition, Subtraction.” Both explain the order of operations when trying to solve a math equation.

Here are the different equations broken down:

Mike Breen, the Public Awareness Officer for the American Mathematical Society, said to Popular Mechanics: “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 Insider, “The confusion is caused by the difference between modern and historic interpretations of the order of operations.” Talwalker claims that the number 1 is wrong, though, and it’s because those people “were using an outdated version of the order of operations, multiplying 2(4) first and then dividing 8 by 8.” Insider reports that using a modern calculator will get a person 16 because “you have to add another set of parentheses to get an answer of 1.”

You can watch Talwalker’s explanation of all that above. Thus, it’s not that one answer is wrong. It’s a matter of interpretation.