Viral math problem divides the internet as no-one can agree on an answer

Viral math problem divides the internet as no-one can agree on an answer

I'll be honest: I've never been good at math. I know I'm probably not in a minority here, but numbers have never been my forte. I can count, I can recite everything up to the seven times table, but beyond that, I'm completely helpless. The most rudimentary equations look like they're written in a foreign language to my eyes, and I'm blown away by my more numerically-literate friends when they do even a simple bit of long division.

So if you're like me, and math is the bane of your life, then scroll no further, because I have a feeling that you don't have much of a chance of working out this math problem. However, if you're a little bit more confident in your abilities, then by all means, please press on, and take a gander at the equation that's baffling the internet this week.

Watch this adorable video of Abby and Brittany Hensel teaching math to 5th graders:

The tweet that kicked off the whole mess stems from a Twitter account called @pjmdoll, who posted an image macro scene from an anime, with a character standing in front of a blackboard. Written on the blackboard was a deceptively-simple-looking equation: 8 ÷ 2 ( 2 + 2) = ? Apparently, the different ways that this question can be solved means that mathematicians have been arguing about the 'proper' answer.

Commenting on the puzzle in a statement made to Popular Mechanics, American Mathematical Society Public Awareness Officer Mark Breen claimed: "According to the order of operations, you solve whatever is in the parentheses first. That gives you four. Then, in PEMDAS, multiplication and division take equal precedence, so you’d do the first that occurs from left to right."

He added: "So you’d do eight divided by two first, which is four. Thus, it’s 16 according to the classic order of operations. But 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 the strict order of operations, you’d get 16, but I wouldn’t hit someone on the wrist with a ruler if they said one."

Well boffins: what answer did you come up with? Personally, I'm still scratching my head ...