Posted by: kcgadiyar | October 13, 2011

Math, English and how people teach

Recently, there has been a question floating around Facebook which asks how much is 1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1-1+1+1+1+1+1+1×0

If you only do a cursory runthrough and just count the 1’s, and then multiply the last 1 by 0, you will get 16 as the answer.  But, on closer inspection, you will see that there is a cleverly hidden MINUS sign in the equation as well. So, adjusting for that accordingly, we get the following 4 segments to the question:


i.e. 10-1+5+0

=14. And that should be the end of that.


But…. on Facebook the answer poll looks something like this:

What the?

Over 3 million responses, 1.3 million of them saying zero. Around 900 thousand saying 14 and 200 thousand saying 16. But that is not the thing that strikes me the most, it is the fact that people who answered zero are not even willing to listen to others who are trying to explain why it is not zero.

Some responses from the thread read:

Anything into zero is zero. End of story.

If there are brackets you use BEDMAS, else you go left to right

and some of them are not even fit to print here. The perceived slight over the fact that someone mentioned that they are wrong is driving people to insult people they don’t even know.

I sometimes wonder what is wrong in our teaching establishment and then i find a video like this:

Sometimes i wonder about where we are headed.



  1. Interestingly enough, if you type this calculation from left to right in the default windows calculator, it shows the equation correctly at the top but since it is evaluated left to right, the output comes out to be 0. That might explain the majority answering it as 0.

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