People Are Fiercely Divided Over The Correct Answer To This Math Equation—And Now Our Brains Hurt

Whether you were a numbers whiz or mathematically-challenged kid in school, you have to admit one nice thing about math:

There’s pretty much always a right answer.

Unlike other subjects that are more abstract, hypothetical or subjective, math always seems to have its act together.

But when Twitter user @pjmdoll recently posted an equation, everything we know about mathematics was suddenly thrown into chaos:

Ok, think back to what you learned about the order of operations…and easy breezy beautiful Covergirl, right?


Guess again.

It turns out that there are two schools of thought that lead to two very different answers.

Let’s break them down.

Everyone can agree that things in parentheses go first, right? So we can get that 2+2 solved and simplify things to 8÷2(4).

But this is where people start to disagree.

Some say you should now work your way from left to right, which would mean taking care of 8÷2 first, which gets us 4, and then multiplying it by the 4 in parentheses for a final answer of 16.

Others say that you should first solve 2(4) to get 8, and then solve 8÷8 to get a final answer of 1.

So how can this be? And which one is the correct answer?

Well, it turns out that they could both be “correct” depending on how you were taught math.

If you were taught the BODMAS method (which stands for Brackets, Orders, Division, Multiplication, Addition, Subtraction), you wind up with an answer of 16.

If you were taught the PEMDAS method (Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction), then you end up getting 1.

Several people attempted to quell the debate by pointing this out:

Ok, so even if we can’t all agree on a correct answer, we can at least all agree that the problem needs to be stated differently for clarity:

I hope we all learned something today!


For the former mathletes and anyone who enjoys a clever joke, this shirt is available here.