An apparently simple mathematical equation is doing the rounds online and is producing conflicting opinions worldwide. While appearing basic upon first glance, the equation could, in fact, have radically different outcomes depending upon how it is approached.
But which answer is correct? Take a look at the following equation and see if you can come up with a solution before scrolling down to the big reveal. What is the correct answer to this conundrum?
Netizens are arguing over the correct method for solving this seemingly simple equation. Some people think the answer is 1, and others firmly believe it’s 61. But which method is correct? Let’s expand both possible methods as see if we can find out.
Some people found the answer by simply solving the equation the same way they would typing it into an old-fashioned calculator: from left to right, in which case the answer would be 1, as shown below:
60 + 60 × 0 + 1 = ?
(60 + 60) × 0 + 1 = ?
(120 × 0) + 1 = ?
(0 + 1) = 1
However, method 2 arrives at a completely different answer.
Others cited a standard mathematical rule that has to be followed in cases like this; that the equation shouldn’t necessarily be solved from left to right, as one would punch it into a calculator, but instead must be solved according to a certain “order of operations.”
The order-of-operations rule denotes which part of an equation should be solved first, and it makes a difference; the answer will be totally different depending on the order it is solved in, and that’s why this standardized rule came into being, so that everyone can be on the same page.
The order of operations can be summed up in the acronym “PEMDAS”; that is, the problem should be solved in the following order:
P = Parentheses
E = Exponents
M/D = Multiplication and Division
A/S = Addition and Subtraction
In the case of M/D and A/S, which are on equal footing, the functions are tackled from left to right.
So, let’s see how we would solve the problem using this method. As there are neither parentheses nor exponents in this question, the first part to solve is multiplication; 60 × 0, of course, equals 0, so that completely changes the outcome method 1 arrived at. See below:
60 + 60 × 0 + 1 = ?
60 + (60 × 0) + 1 = ?
(60 + 0) + 1 = ?
60 + 1 = 61
Which method did you choose? If you chose method 2, then give yourself a pat on the back because you obtained the correct answer: 61.
Responding to these two methods on Stuff.co.nz, netizens shared their opinions, confusion, and confidence respectively. “Ha! Clearly I was not paying attention in math class at high school,” one person admitted.
“There is nothing ambiguous at all,” another problem solver contributed. “There are no other ways. Math is designed with a set of rules, they do not vary.”
Mathematical problems such as these employ both memory and methodology and are an excellent way to stimulate different areas of the brain; this is particularly beneficial for anyone who works a desk job or who does not employ mental arithmetic in their everyday lives.
Practicing mental agility can also help delay the onset of memory dysfunction and can radically improve a person’s focus and attentiveness throughout the working day.
According to the Independent, math equations and brain teasers such as these, upon completion, also reward us with a sense of instant gratification, hence their viral appeal and addictive quality. An additional benefit to flexing those mental muscles in the modern age is that viral conundrums such as these can readily be shared online and discussed around the world.
Why not add to the conversation; are you a “Method 1” advocate or a “Method 2” devotee? Did you succeed in coming to the correct solution to this mathematical problem?