1 or 16? Divided, we stand on maths riddle

After the mindboggling ‘modern’ mathematics video widely circulated on WhatsApp, showing a maths teacher losing her job for trying to tell a student 2+2 equals 4 and not 22, this seemingly simple problem has left netizens at sixes and sevens.

It was first posted by a Twitter user on Monday. The problem is: 8÷2 (2+2) =? The answer depends on whether one belongs to the PEMDAS or BODMAS school of thought.

PEMDAS stands for Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition and Subtraction, while BODMAS stands for Brackets, Of or Order, Division, Multiplication, Addition and Subtraction.

The problem seems to have been liked by over a lakh of people and several took the time to explain their answer. However, there was disagreement on whether the correct answer was 1 or 16 and the names of mathematics teachers were invoked in support.

One Twitter user saw the fastest way out of this puzzle – outsourcing. “Send this to Anand Kumar sir” (the Super 30 founding guru).

Another, @aartithakurjha, made this discovery: “Pls don’t depend on mobile calculator completely. In Normal calculator 4+4÷4=2 In Mobile calculator 4+4÷4=5”

According to Bhaskar Mitra@bhaaskarmitra: BODMAS Bracket Order Division Multiplication Addition Subtraction 8/2(2+2) 8/2(4) 8/8 1 PEMDAS Parentheses Exponential Multiplication

Division Addition Subtraction 8/2(4) 4(4) 16. Both are correct depending upon how you were taught. However, @akc1291 said with finality: “The whole purpose of using brackets/parenthesis is to depict a enclosing argument/operation ... 8/2(4) is not equal to (8/2)(4) , so pemdas or bodmas, answer is always 1!”

@Ameetdmello had another explanation: “To get 16 after brackets, order should be left to right…Both are right as both methods are practically used, only you can’t use both in the same equations, for computer science or string functions PEMDAS, for high school maths BODMAS rule.”

Politics too entered the equation.

@Bestum_best maintained: “Yeah. Any other number is a state of mind. Rahul Gandhi is the best.” Which was naturally countered by @akhilbsnl, who averred: “I will agree with whatever answer Modi ji gives...And that will be only correct answer.”

Finally, for the benefit of the backbenchers, @_carlosalaniz explained: “I'll say it louder for the people in the back. DISTRIBUTIVE PROPERTY! So this becomes easy - It still follows the PEMDAS or BODMAS a(b+c) = (ab+ac) which is part of the Parenthesis or Bracket So, 8÷2(2+2) equals 8÷(4+4) which then becomes... oh guess what. 1.”

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