Math tweet splits internet mathematicians

Tuesday 20 August 2019 @ 12:10 pm

One of my colleagues sent me a New York Times article about a math tweet.  The tweet was of a deceptively simple math equation and asked people to calculate the result.  All of the internet mathematicians immediately divided into two camps based on their interpretation of the rules of precedence, which were intentionally ambiguous in the equation. The point of the article (and of my colleagues sharing) was the importance of using parentheses to clarify the order in which things should occur. I often add extra parens, even when the order of precedence wouldn’t require them, just to give myself a visual clue of what is supposed to happen when.

The funny thing about the original article, and an interesting follow-up article, is that experts can still be found on both sides of the divide. That is somewhat surprising given the apparent simplicity of the problem.

And thanks to Zvi Flanders of Huron Consulting for sending me the link.

(For examples of my most popular formulas, please visit the FORMULAS page on my website.)







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