I am a bit of a geek and as such I like brain teasers, even mathematical ones. So I was keen to play when I saw this one being tossed into my Facebook news feed:
Solve 6 – 1 x 0 + 2 / 2= ???
I looked at the hundreds of answers being submitted and considered what my own would be. Of course, anything times zero is going to be zero so I negated anything left of the zero as inconsequential. That left me with two divided by itself, which, of course, is one.
Assuming nothing short of brilliance in my conclusion and wondering how the hell others were coming up with five or even seven as their answers, I Googled the problem expecting to see my answer confirmed. Not.
What I failed to consider was what my fourth grade teacher would have referred to as “order of operators.” No, this isn’t some strange element of the “new math” (new math is a different way of teaching the same old math, it doesn’t change any of the rules). In short it means, in the absence of parentheses, you must do multiplication and division before you do addition and subtraction.
So when I applied this fundamental principle of fourth grade mathematics, the solution comes from:
Step 1. 1 x 0 = 0
Step 2. 2 / 2 = 1
Step 3. 6 – 0 = 6
Step 4. 6 + 1 = 7
And that is why the answer is seven, not one nor five.
Learning … erm … Relearning all the time.