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