# Viral Math Problems / Math Bait

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## About

**Viral Math Problems**, also known as **Math Bait**, refers to math problems with intentionally vague formatting that are often posted with the intent of sparking debate as commenters offer different answers based on the order of operations they use to solve the equation. Such questions often turn into debates about PEMDAS, an acronym that stands for the correct order of operations (Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication/Division, Addition/Subtraction). Many examples have spread widely online, often leading to heated debate and widespread coverage.

## Origin

Many viral math problems spread due to the vagueness with which the problem is formatted. Perhaps the first math problem to go viral was 48÷2 [9+3], which was first posted to the Hot Pursuit Forums on April 7th, 2011.^{[1]}

The problem spread widely over forums, as users debated the proper order of operations used to solve it. User Phyxius Ænimus of Yahoo! Answers^{[2]} posted a breakdown of the two "proper" ways to solve the problem, noting both could be correct.

## Spread

Viral math problems became a regular sight online, often related to debates about the order of operations. In June of 2019, Business Insider^{[3]} recounted ten such equations.

#### Similar Equations

Multiple equations formatted identically to 48÷2(9+3) went viral on social media.

###### 8÷2(2+2)

8÷2 [2+2] is an ambiguous algebraic equation that was widely circulated online in late July 2019. On Twitter, the most common answers to the problem were one and 16, causing lengthy debates between the users over how to identify the correct order of operations. The equation was so widespread that it was covered by the New York Times.^{[4]}

###### 6/2(1+2)

6/2[1+2] is a math equation whose answer has sparked debate on social media, particularly on Twitter in April of 2021. People have generally concluded the answer was either 1 or 9 based on their understanding of the order of operations. By applying the PEMDAS order of operations, some Twitter users interpreted the equation as (6/2)(3), which would make 9, while others read it as 6/(2×3), making 1.

#### Horse Algebra Equation

Horse Algebra Equation refers to a picture of an algebraic equation featuring horses, horseshoes and boots. Despite the ostensible simplicity of the equation, people have reached many different answers, sparking the picture's spread.

#### How Many Cubes Are On The Trailer?

How Many Cubes Are On The Trailer refers to a viral math problem showing three angles of a trailer holding stacks of orange cubes, asking viewers to surmise how many are on the trailer. In late February 2024, the post led to a viral debate online, as with the information given, many users deduced the answer to be "51" but some argued there was not enough information given to make a proper guess since you can't see all of the angles.

Notably, the debate about this question did not come down to the order of operations.

## Search Interest

## External References

^{[1]} Hot Pursuit Forums – Math Problem

^{[2]} Yahoo! Answers – Two ways to solve

^{[3]} Business Insider – 10 viral math equations that stumped the internet

^{[4]} New York Times – The Math Equation That Tried to Stump the Internet

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