# Viral math question splits the web, has even confused calculators

A seemingly simple math problem seems to have baffled everyone on the internet, smashing brains and calculators.

The math problem was first tweeted in the summer of 2019, with the request “a mutual friend of mine solve this”.

But this week, the problem found new people to go up a wall.

The equation is fairly straightforward at the start. But the exact way you solve the problem isn’t so straightforward.

Mathematical equations are solved in a specific order of operations, which is taught as PEMDAS. This acronym stands for parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition and subtraction.

In American schools, children are taught to remember it with the phrase Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.

But apparently it doesn’t add up, as hardly anyone could find the real answer to the problem. It’s either 1 or 16, depending on most answers – but they’re very different numbers.

“I do parentheses, multiply, then divide, so I think it’s 1,” the original tweeter wrote. “See, so apparently the division comes first … that’s why I didn’t do well in math okay.”

App users stepped in to help, usually with a little patience.

“With my degrees I would say you were right but there is something missing”, wrote a mathematician in 2020. “The ‘P.’ The parentheses are done first, including the multiplication of the attached numbers. The way you did it is also correct, with current mathematics being taught incorrectly for years. #AmericanSchools “

“I have 2 degrees in mathematics”, another user responded. “It’s 1.”

Whether or not the answer is actually 1, however, the original tweet got so hot that the New York Times asked Cornell mathematician and professor Steven Strogratz to tackle it.

“Deal with anything in parentheses first. Of course 2 + 2 = 4. So the question boils down to 8 ÷ 2 × 4,” Strogatz wrote in 2019. “And here’s the rub.

“Now that we are faced with division and multiplication, which one takes priority? The Times asked. “If we do the division first, we get 4 × 4 = 16; if we do the multiplication first, we get 8 ÷ 8 = 1. ”