This simple maths question has divided the internet - can you solve it?

2 August 2019, 09:53 | Updated: 2 August 2019, 09:59

This controversial maths problem has baffled the internet
This controversial maths problem has baffled the internet. Picture: Getty Images
Naomi Bartram

By Naomi Bartram

A maths question was posted on Sunday and quickly went viral, with thousands of people debating the answer.

If you fancy yourself a bit of a numbers whiz, you might want to give this equation a go as it's baffled social media users. 

Yep, the Internet is well and truly confused by the question which was posted on Sunday, and it's managed to cause a fiery argument on Twitter. 

In the post, the equation reads: '8÷2(2+2),' with users furiously debating whether it's 16 or 1. 

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”It’s clearly 1,” one user wrote, while a second hit back: “it’s 16 omg the replies embarrassing…”

Mathematicians and teachers were quick to get involved, with many rowing over the different ‘orders of operations’ which can be used to solve the question. 

One of the forms is known as ‘BODMAS’, which stands for brackets first, followed by order, division and multiplication, and addition and subtraction. 

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A social media user explained: “Answer is 1. Solved Via "BODMAS" Rule: (B racket), O( f ) D÷ ivision, M x ultiplication, A+ dditional S-ubtraction.”

The second form is known as 'PEMDAS' - which is parentheses (or brackets), exponents, multiplication, division, addition and subtraction - and gives the answer 16 instead.

Whereas the third, 'BEDMAS' swaps the 'P' for 'B' which also just means brackets. 

But a Public Awareness Officer from the American Mathematical Society, has confirmed he makes the answer 16, although he did slam the equation itself as ‘ambiguous’. 

He told Popular Mechanics: “According to order of operations, you solve whatever is in the brackets first. That gives you 4.

“Then, in PEMDAS, multiplication and division take equal precedence, so you'd do the first that occurs from left to right. So you'd do 8 divided by 2 first, which is 4. Thus, it's 16 according to classic order of operations.

“But the way it's written, it's ambiguous. In math, a lot of times there are ambiguities. Mathematicians try to make rules as precise as possible. According to strict order of operations, you'd get 16, but I wouldn't hit someone on the wrist with a ruler if they said 1.”

And those peacekeepers among us have suggested BOTH answers are right, as one wrote: “It's either 1 or 16 depending on which mathematician you listen to, because order of operations isn't a hard and fast rule, and math is really just a language.”

"Both 1 and 16 are correct answers because the notation of the equation is incorrect," said another.