48÷2(9+3) = ?

April 26, 2011

It’s that damned division problem that is dividing web forums all over the internet.  I think it started on Wall Street Oasis and has now spawned mammoth threads on everywhere from bodybuilding.com to physicsforum.com to counter culture site grasscity.com, covering aspects relating to BODMAS, the juxtaposition of multiplication, why scientific calculators give diferent answers and why whether xy ÷ xy = 1 or y2 . It’s even had a Hitler parody done, which says something.

Scarily, results are a pretty even 50 50 split between 2 and 288 –  which says a fair bit about the state of mathematical education!

Personally, my initial interpretation is 2(9+3) is the denominator and the answer is 2; but that’s only my brain calculator at work.  Others have chosen to divide 48 by 2 first, then evaluating 24 x 12 = 288.  Then again, back when I was in primary school, we didn’t even have calculators, and basic timestables were memorised up to 12 x 12, anything more would need additional working, so you have to think about the intention of the question.

So in summary, we have 48÷2(9+3) = 2, 288, a poorly written question or the greatest troll thread known to mankind.

Just saying.

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