Here’s a heated chat between the editors who stopped doing any semblance of actual work for the day to solve an equation designed to flummox fourth graders—and make many enemies in the process—followed by insight from real mathematicians and physicists who begrudgingly responded to our request for comment to solve the enraging math debate, once and for all. What if you want to do it the long way and use the distributive property and distribute the 2 first? Or does the distributive property suddenly no longer apply? Derek: I trust Morgan because she's had a math class this decade. Dan: smart Berkley people say it's too ambiguous to say; PEMDAS isn't a mathematical convention as much as a teaching method Pat: multiplication/division::right/wrong Taylor Rojek, associate features editor: Biggest takeaway isn't that anyone sucks at doing math, but that this person sucks at writing out clear equations Bill Strickland, editorial director: MAKE IT CONTENT! Pat: The equation is not written according to ISO standards, leaving ambiguity of interpretation and the real answer is we need to teach better math writing.

Pat: Wikipedia says you hate America if you get 16. Ambiguous PEMDASAmbiguous problems, order of operations, PEMDAS, BEMDAS, BEDMASaka..Taylor said, but from Harvard Morgan: aka...teach the distributive property instead of random acronyms Pat: When written according to ISO standard, the answer is 1.

To render it unambiguous, one should write it either as (48/2)(9 3) or 48/(2(9 3)).

This applies, in general, to any expression of the form a/bc : one needs to insert parentheses to show whether one means (a/b)c or a/(bc).

“Angular Dependence for ν‘, j’-Resolved States in F H2 → HF(ν‘, j’) H Reactive Scattering Using a New Atomic Fluorine Beam Source” I can see if he wants to weigh in… please do Trevor: PEMDAS Andrew: i'll also fire off the request to my go-to physicist who also just answered the POP question of how to jump from a moving train Taylor: tbh it would be awesome if we could find experts who disagree Trevor: wait revisited my interpretation of PEMDAS back to 16this is why I went to art school Taylor: I asked my friend [REDACTED], who is about to graduate with her phd in statistics from [REDACTED] and has three or four math masters degreesand i am so pleased to report she's on my side Derek: [REDACTED] wins Andrew: but what did [REDACTED] say was the answer??!

Taylor: there is no answer, fake question designed to stoke outrage Bill: maybe our smart take is: math is not subjective, nobody writes math like this, here is what's wrong Taylor: she's just getting started Kit: Sounds like [REDACTED] needs to write the sweaty math take Andrew: daaaaang [REDACTED]go off Bobby: no we're onto something! D., Associate Professor of Physics at Southeastern Louisiana University, Who Delivered the Final Verdict and Decisively Shut Us All Up Of course this isn't math. We have conventions on how to write these things just like we have conventions on how to spell stuff. Some people spell it as ‘gray’ and others as ‘grey.’ We still understand what's going on.

Without that typographic convention, the order-of-operations convention might never have evolved.

When one has numbers rather than letters, one can't use juxtaposition, since it would give the appearance of a single decimal number, so one must insert a symbol such as ×, and there is less natural reason for interpreting 2 × 3 4 as (2 × 3) 4 rather than 2 × (3 4), but I suppose that we do so by extension of the convention that arose in the algebraic context.

For me, I would write this more explicitly so that there is no confusion.

A problem that hit the Internet in early 2011 is, "What is the value of 48/2(9 3) ?

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