Can You Solve This Simple Math Equation? Much Of The Internet Is Stumped

It may have been awhile since I was in school, but I still feel like I have a pretty good handle on basic math skills. However, even I’m a little unsure of my answer to this seemingly simple math problem that has even the Epoch Times offices a bit confused.

  1. The equation couldn’t be simpler or more straightforward… right? So we have 15-1(12÷4+1). If you’re doing parentheticals first, 12 ÷ 4 = 3, then add 1, which gives you 4. Multiply that 4 by 1, which is still 4, and subtract that 4 from 15, which should be 11. Or is it?
  2. Some people are getting wildly different answers. While some get 11, there are other people on Twitter who believe that the answer is 18, and a few even got 56! I’m really not sure how they’ve arrived at that answer because my superior math skills have me at 11, the obviously correct answer, but who knows?
  3. Order of operations is the key here. I still remember the mathematical order of operations PEMDAS—parenthesis, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction. There’s also BODMAS, which is brackets, open, divide, multiplication, addition, and subtraction. These should be helpful but they kind of aren’t because both methods could get you completely different answers (even though they really shouldn’t).
  4. The correct answer is clearly 11. I’ve tried doing this equation a multitude of different ways but I guess my middle and high school math lessons are hard-wired into my brain because I just couldn’t bring myself to get anything other than 11 as the final answer. If you’re following the order of operations—which isn’t optional, by the way—you HAVE to divide 12 by 4 first. Then you HAVE to add the 1 that’s inside the parenthesis before multiplying your answer by the 1 right outside the parenthesis, the answer of which gets subtracted from the 15. It’s just common sense!
  5. Did you get it right? If you didn’t, don’t feel too bad—a lot of people online couldn’t figure it out either. There’s no shame in it, but it might be time to hit up a refresher math course…


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