Today’s Useful Moral

math equation

A math equation recently stirred up trouble by seeming to offer two equally valid, and very different, solutions. Some software programs flatly refused to take the bait. Credit Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images.

If you want a clear answer, ask a clear question.

Adapted from Steven Strogatz, “That Vexing Math Equation? Here’s an Addition,” NYTimes, 8- 5-19)

Strogatz reprises an online debate about the answer to this equation:

8 ÷ 2(2+2) = ?

I got 16. The answer can be either 16 or 1 depending on two differing standards for order of operations that are equally valid. Mr. Strogatz concludes that his notation for the equation had a built-in ambiguity, which he intended.

(c) 2019 JMN

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day, and watch Netflix and Prime Video for entertainment. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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