This Math Problem Is Stumping the Internet–Can You Decode This Pictorial Problem?

August 8, 2019 Updated: August 8, 2019

A lot of viral math problems on the internet are claiming that you need 130+ IQ to solve them. We’re not claiming that here, but that doesn’t make it any less satisfying to solve!

We know you’re probably hard at work right now, but a math brainteaser break may be just the thing to sharpen you up mentally. That might be exactly what you need to boost your productivity for the rest of the day.

This is not your average set of equations, as there is the additional interest of pictorial logic involved that has to be decoded in order to find the values and the final answer. You’ll have to pay attention to detail.

Try this one on for size:

Don’t scroll down until you’re sure you have found the answer, or unless you’re completely stumped (you’re probably not the only one) and are just dying to find out the correct solution.

This math problem starts off like any normal math problem, but then it adds a twist, as there is information encoded in the pictorial element. Let’s see if we can figure out the value of each object in order to solve the final equation.

The first line is fairly obvious; the three pictograms are exactly the same and added together they equal 45, which means that each of them equals 15.

In the second line, there are 2 bunches of 4 bananas added together plus the same pictogram from line 1, which we determined to be equal to 15, which altogether equals 23. By subtracting 15 from both sides, we can determine that each bunch of 4 bananas equals 4.

The third line has 1 bunch of 4 bananas plus 2 pocket watches, which adds up to 10. We know that 1 bunch of 4 bananas equals 4, and so we can subtract 4 from both sides, and thus determine that each pocket watch must be equal to 3.

So, we have determined the following values:

In the last line, we have 1 pocket watch plus 2 bunches of 3 bananas, multiplied by a shape that’s similar to the one in line 1—but not quite the same. So, how do we solve this line when the objects are clearly not the same as the ones we have already found? Could there be a way to determine their value from what we can see and the values that we’ve already figured out?

Yes, there is!

Notice that the pocket watch in line three, whose value we know is 3, is pointing to 3 o’clock, while the one in the last line is pointing to 2 o’clock. From this, we might infer that each hour has a value of 1, and so the latter clock is equal to 2.

Remember how the bunch of 4 bananas equals 4? Well, we may infer that one banana has a value of 1, and so the bunch of 3 bananas equals 3—that’s pretty self-explanatory.

Now that last pictogram is a bit tricky. There are two overlapping shapes: a 5-sided pentagram over a six-sided hexagram. The previous pictogram, whose value was 15, had 3 overlapping shapes: a square over a pentagram over a hexagram. If you add up all the sides, you get 15. Coincidence?

There are no coincidences!

We can therefore infer from this that each side may equal 1, and so the last pictogram must be equal to 11.

Now after all the hard work decoding these images, take care not to forget your order of operations! We have to multiply the bananas and pictogram first, which gives us 33. Then we can add up the rest of the equation, which gives us a final answer of 38.

Did you manage to get the right answer? You don’t have to be a genius, but it certainly is satisfying to solve a problem that forces you to think outside the box. Wouldn’t you agree?

BONUS: Are you up for an another one?

Can You Solve This Controversial Math Problem–Millions Have Tried and Argued Over the Correct Answer

This viral math problem has generated an extraordinary amount of controversy because of an obscure yet perfectly valid point that you might not have heard of. Can you figure out what that highly contentious issue might be?

If you’re somewhat familiar with online math brainteasers like this one, it’s clear that this problem deals with what’s known as the “order of operations.” The acronym for remembering this is PEMDAS/BODMAS, which breaks down as follows:





And as a rule, any expression of the same precedence is dealt with from left to right.

Literally millions of people online have tried this math problem on various social media platforms, and it has sparked a massive debate over what the correct answer is. Despite how clearly the order of operations are understood in the community of mathematics, the debate has split netizens into two main camps, which we shall explore here.

So, go ahead and solve the viral math problem, shown below, for yourself before scrolling down to find out what all of the fuss is about. What answer did you get? And which of the two camps do you belong to?

When you’ve found the solution, scroll down to see what others have come up with online.

Seems pretty straightforward, right? Well, it’s not quite as simple as you may have thought.

Following the order of operations, the first precedent to be dealt with is the parenthetical expression (9 + 3), which is (12).

Next, we are left with the expression 48 ÷ 2(12). The parenthetical expression 2(12) is implicitly one of multiplication: 2 x 12. Then, if we follow the standard, modern order of operations as per above, multiplication and division are of the same precedent, and so, they are dealt, as per our rule, from left to right.

Also, that is exactly how any calculator would interpret such an expression—using the same order of operations as mentioned.

Thus, 48 ÷ 2 gives us 24, which is multiplied by 12, which gives us a final answer of 288. Was this your answer? Then that might seem like the end of the story, but it’s not, and here’s why:

Dating back to an earlier age, there is an obscure exception to the modern rules for the order of operations from 1917 that was once in use. According to this exception, parenthetical expressions that are implicitly multiplication, like 2(12), are not treated in the same way as 2 x 12 would be, as per the order of operations.

Rather, the expression would 2(12) takes precedent over that of division and multiplication; it would be grouped in the same way the expression 2y would be, for instance. And the reason for this was one of expediency, as it would be simpler and easier to denote 48 ÷ 2(12) as such than it would be to denote the cumbersome expression:. Such an exception was thus applied.

Thus, going by the old the rule from 1917…

The parenthetical expression 2(12) is not implicitly dealt with like multiplication and division, and instead takes precedent. So, 2(12) equals 24, and 48 ÷ 24 gives us our final answer: 2.

Depending on which rule is used, there are two completely different answers. Most modern schools teach the first method, the one that our calculators follow, but there are some people out there who continue to follow the ways of olden times.

Which camp do you belong to?

Photo Credit: The Epoch Times