Think You’re a Math Expert? This Tricky Math Puzzle Has the Internet Stumped

July 17, 2020 Updated: July 17, 2020

If you fancy yourself as pretty good at math, here is a challenge for you. This equation is straight out of a junior high text book, and yet many students and even some teachers may struggle to solve it.

Take a look at the equation below. Maybe the format looks familiar, maybe it doesn’t, but take a moment to figure out the solution. There’s one firm rule: no calculators!

The Puzzle:

Epoch Times Photo
(The Epoch Times)

Can you figure it out? As a helpful hint, the puzzle is multiple choice, offering three possible solutions to choose from. Do your mental arithmetic and then decide: Is the correct answer 0, 26, or 50?

When you think you know the answer, or if you’ve given up, scroll down below to see the correct answer along with an explanation.

Epoch Times Photo
(Illustration – ImageFlow/Shutterstock)


Epoch Times Photo
(The Epoch Times)

The answer is 26! Did you get it right?

Rather than simply solving it from left to right, the way to solve this equation is by working out the numbers inside the parentheses first and the addition second. This method is all thanks to a middle school math acronym known as “PEMDAS” that dictates the order in which we solve the functions of an equation.


Need a refresher on PEMDAS?

P is for parentheses
E is for exponents, such as powers or indices
M & D signify multiplication and division
A & S signify addition and subtraction

When you encounter multiplication and division functions together in an equation, solve them from left to right. The same goes for addition and subtraction—solve them from left to right. And there you have it!

If you used PEMDAS to your advantage to solve this puzzle, then congratulations; you really are a math whizz! Be sure to shout your victory from the rooftops and share this challenge with a friend or family member.

Puzzling is an excellent way to pass the time and a brilliant way to remind yourself that not all middle school math skills have been lost to the ether!

Epoch Times Photo
(Illustration – Mr.Exen/Shutterstock)

Did You Know?

Math is a divisive subject. Many believe that some people have an inbuilt gift for numbers while others do not. However, research suggests that education, preparation, and practice are just as important as natural talent.

What holds some people back from becoming bonafide math boffins is their mindset. People who are “entity theorists” believe that their abilities are gifts they were born with; “incremental theorists,” on the other hand, believe that their abilities can be learned and developed through effort.

Interestingly, school-aged girls are more susceptible to entity theory than their male peers when it comes to math, reports Medium, which may explain why women are underrepresented in STEM fields.

Epoch Times Photo
(Illustration – VectorMine/Shutterstock)

A 1984 study by psychologist Carol Dweck concluded that the key to success lies in praising people (especially children) for their effort and not for their innate talents. The “wrong” kind of praise encourages entity theory, but even fixed mindsets are reversible with the right education.

What kind of mindset are you? Was it your innate skill or learned ability that helped you solve this equation?

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