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Sadness and Math

The Reason for the Post

Today I ran across the picture on the right and had a moment of sadness and irritation at the caption that headed it, “I Fear for Our School System.” Then I shared the math problem with a couple of people at the coffee shop and ended up in a frustrating conversation where they debated the validity of PEMDAS or BEMDAS when there are no brackets.

Screaming and ranting occurred during this section of this post – please be advised that nothing was broken and no coffee patrons were seriously injured.

For those of you who would like to go through the math:


Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction

So in a case of 10 + 10 x 0 = ?

What do you do first according to PEMDAS?

There are no Parentheses, no Exponents, but ah! multiplication! Something that seemed to happen in the discussion threads about this problem was that they thought “No parentheses means no PEMDAS.” Heads up world! It is used regardless.

[notice]So the first step looks at 10 x 0.[/notice]

10 x 0 = 0 right?

Just to be clear:

[notice]10 + 10 x 0 = ?                       10 + 0 = ?[/notice]

Alright. Last step according to PEMDAS? No division but there is a bit of addition. No subtraction either so we finish off with the addition for our answer.

[important]10 + 0 = 10[/important]

Now why so fired up about this? The discussion threads that followed this question were completely insane! People were adamant that the answer was 0 or 10 or 20. They became angry with each other as well. There was name calling! Sheesh! Alright – one thing social media has done for us is create consensus building – lets use it rather than allow it to divide us – especially with a math process that anyone could google.


About the author: Rurik

Known both as Ru (or as the title suggests, Ru Ru the Ruiner), Rurik studies ways games can designed to improve society, especially in the realm of education.