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Viral Math Problems / Math Bait

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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.


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]

04-07-2011, 07:21 AM Join Date Location: Dec 2007 Springfield 2,369 al _carl Christian Superhero Pride Post Thanks / Like s For Rep Power: 10 9! Math Problem My son had this problem on his homework last night. I know the answer, do you? 48+2(9+3) Blog this Post A Reply φ Reply With Quote

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.

Best Answer - Chosen by Voters atics is supposed to provide you with single, definitive answers. However, in Mathem this case, it does not. I really scoured the internet and countless textbooks for the Phyxiusproper answer and have made inquiries with few people I know whom I venerate as AEnimus some of the greatest minds that I have had the luxury of meeting and the answer isn't as definitive as you would hope. Sadly, the real answer is that both sides are correct to a point. (...and it pains me to even remotely admit that anything outside of 288 could be the answer). Position 1: The Order of Operations: This stance states that since the standard order of operations puts multiplication and division on the same rank, the equation can be read as (48 2)(9+3). This reigns with truth as 48+2(9+3) is the same as 48+2*(9+3). Using the standardized left-to-right notation, the answer can be nothing outside of 288. This left-to-right concept is indicative of "PEMDAS" that we all learned in grade school Position 2: The Distributive Property: This stance states that multiplication through juxtaposition, being a commonplace concept, naturally makes a parenthetical implication around grouped numbers. Thus, the equation appears as 48+[2(9+3)]. This technique is correct as well. However, this mak es the answer 2.


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] 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]

em @pjmdoll oomfies solve this 8 2(2 2) ? 5:56 PM Jul 28, 2019 Twitter for iPhone


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.


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