• In the "Page Three" human interest column of the Washington Post this morning there was a sad letter from a parent of a 3rd grader. The kid had been given a page of math homework. The instructions were to put the correct operators in the correct locations to solve the equation, and said to refer to the example at the top of the page. The letter proceeded to describe how everybody thought the example equation was incomplete and how nobody could figure out the solution. The next day at school it was learned that most of the kids couldn't figure it out, and most of their parents couldn't either.

I wanted to mention it here because I figured it out while only halfway through reading the letter - without actually doing the math. My husband - despite also being a software engineer couldn't figure it out. So how about a little informal poll: who here knows the answer? And the real question is of course, why is it so hard for some people to solve but others get right away? Here's the sample equation as printed on the homework page:

7 2 + 3 1 - 4 9 = 54

(If anyone here has access to the WP and notices, yes these are different numbers. I don't remember them exactly, but this is the same type of problem.)

• 72 = 49 - 31 + 54

• Yes and no.

Sorry, I've been fighting with the forum editting non-tool trying to make it look exactly like they had it printed. I give up...

• Uhh ohh, someone hasn't learned about the numberline yet apparently.....and their parents forgot about it? This "problem" is way too easy for anyone to not understand.

• @jetcitywoman said:

Yes and no.

Sorry, I've been fighting with the forum editting non-tool trying to make it look exactly like they had it printed. I give up...

Printscreen the part of the article for us, or link us to it? You could go the SSDS route, and video it from your computer for us too.

Ohh, I'm guessing it's a printed newspaper article? You could snap a pic I suppose.

• @morbiuswilters said:

72 = 49 - 31 + 54

I got 72+31=49+54

I think you're supposed to leave the numbers in the same position ...

... because ... that's the way it works on all those stupid IQ tests ...

^ which answers the real question

It's whether or not you're familiar with the question format ...

Oh ... we're supposed to use the same operators too?

In that case

72+31-49=54

• I tried embedding a little bitmap but no-go. I suppose I could print it out, put it on a wooden table and take a picture to link up here, but ... nahh...

Keep in mind it's not an IQ test, it's supposed to be the example equation for a math page. As in, here is an example of what I want you to do. But everybody thought the example was missing something, so they were trying to solve it. Turns out it's not missing anything other than a sane type-setter.

• Here's the article, though you may need to register to see it:

According to the article, the issue was one of spacing:
7 2 + 3 1 - 4 9 = 54

vs
72 + 31 - 49 = 54

I can understand how someone could have been confused by that, I guess. It's too bad they didn't show any of the actual problems, though. If the other problems also had stray spaces between some of the digits, that'd make things harder...

• TRWF is the forum software. That looked so much better when I wrote it.

Here's the article, though you may need to register to see it:

According to the article, the issue was one of spacing:

7 2 + 3 1 - 4 9 = 54

vs

72 + 31 - 49 = 54

I can understand how someone could have been confused by that, I guess. It's too bad they didn't show any of the actual problems, though. If the other problems also had stray spaces between some of the digits, that'd make things harder...

• I didn't even notice the spaces.  This would probably work better on paper.

• Exactlly, on paper it did look like there were "blanks" between some of the numbers where you should put an operator.

<P>

And I had the same formatting problem with my posting.  Funny, on this one there is clearly a formatting button-bar on the top of the text box.  I don't remember seeing that before.  I've also noticed that when replying, half the time I'll get a blank text box to write in and the other half the time it will contain "<p></p>".  Interestingly, when those formatting tags show up is exactly when the quoting function *won't* work.  But this is a digression...

• @mbessey said:

I can understand how someone could have been confused by that, I guess. It's too bad they didn't show any of the actual problems, though. If the other problems also had stray spaces between some of the digits, that'd make things harder...

Yeah, I assumed that the actual problems all had spaces between the numbers because the kid was supposed to fill in the correct operators.  So that's why everybody was confused.  I'm amazed that none of the adults could visualize it without the spacing, though.  Even my hubby, who is normally good at such things.

• I'm definitely confused, but only because the equation is clearly already solved.  WTF?

<hints id="hah_hints"></hints>

• @jetcitywoman said:

I've also noticed that when replying, half the time I'll get a blank text box to write in and the other half the time it will contain "<p></p>".
<p></p> is the default that it starts to ... you'll see that until the wysiwyg editor loads fully.  If you see that after the editor loads, there are problems, but it's not surprising.

•  @jetcitywoman said:

Yeah, I assumed that the actual problems all had spaces between the numbers because the kid was supposed to fill in the correct operators.  So that's why everybody was confused.  I'm amazed that none of the adults could visualize it without the spacing, though.  Even my hubby, who is normally good at such things.

Well, it was probably the solved one to explain you how to do it

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