University College London associate professor Hannah Fry explained the two possibilities to the mind-boggling algebra equation doing the rounds on social media.
A mathematician has provided an explanation to the seemingly simple maths question that has left thousands of Twitter users across the globe perplexed.
The algebra equation was first posted by a user under the handle @pjmdoll, who challenged people to solve: 8÷2(2+2)=?
Alongside she shared an anime scene from popular Japanese manga Naruto with the equation on the blackboard.
oomfies solve this pic.twitter.com/0RO5zTJjKk
— em ︎ (@pjmdolI) July 28, 2019
More than 14,000 people have liked the tweet and thousands replied with their answers – although not everyone agreed.
The maths problem has divided people into two groups with some claiming the answer is one and others 16.
The mathematician claims that the answer to the question is, fairly simple.
Hannah, who has written two popular maths books, said the way the question was written leaves ‘room for ambiguity’ over the answer.
She explained: “The (2+2) in brackets is easy enough to deal with – it’s equal to four. But then what does the rest of the equation mean? Is it 8÷(2×4)=1? Or is it (8÷2)x4=16?
“This is like a maths version of the sentence ‘He fed her cat food’. Does it mean the man gave some food to a cat? Or he fed some cat food to a woman.
“It’s impossible to tell from the information we’ve been given.”
The 35-year-old mathematician said it would be clear if the equation was written using fractions instead of division, or obelus, symbol.
In conclusion, Hannah said both one and 16 are correct answers and it’s just ‘depends on how you interpret it’.
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