For some lucky people, complex mathematics is something they can comprehend quite easily. For other people, you may have had to work a little bit harder in order to get acceptable grades in subjects like algebra or calculus. However, if you're an adult, you should be able to easily handle a math question intended for children age six or seven. But in the UK, one math question aimed at that age group has generated a bit of controversy. Here's what happened.
Here's the math problem that was causing such a commotion. There were a certain number of people on a train. 19 people got off, 17 more got on, and that left 63 people remaining. You then need to answer the question, "How many people were on the train to begin with?"
Others agreed with Bloxham that the question was a bit hard for kids that young. Since you have to solve backwards, it's essentially an algebra problem. Isn't that a bit much for kids who are six or seven?
A Twitter user named Robyn Duckworth broke down the problem very simply. If there were 63 people at the end, and you add back the 19 who left and subtract the 17 who got on, you get 65. Fairly simple math, right?
Bloxham's initial tweet and some of her replies have since been deleted. However, one of her tweets said, "If you think the answer is 65 you would be wrong." She also tweeted something about the 19 people leaving is some sort of red herring. What is she talking about?
In another deleted tweet, Bloxham said she had looked for the answer in teachers' Facebook group. She said, "On a teacher's FB group a teacher said it was on the mark scheme as Being 46." So how does that add up?
One person thought it should the real answer might be 66, because you also have to count the driver. But in that case, wouldn't the driver already be included in the 63 people who are there at the end of the problem? In that case, the answer still has to be 65.
One Twitter user took the instructions of the problem quite literally. If you want to know how many people were on the train to begin with, the answer would have to be zero. But something tells us that's not the answer they were going for.
One Twitter user named Quisquous tried to work out the problem, step by step. In the first of two tweets, they said the train went from zero to 65, and then on to 46. Which is all pretty obvious when you read the question.
In the second of the two tweets, Quisquous said that either 0, 65, or 46 would all be acceptable. But when they said "How many people were on the train to begin with?" clearly they meant the number of people at the beginning of the problem. Perhaps Quisquous just likes aggravating people with faulty logic.
But in any case, there still seemed to be some confusion. Perhaps it would be better for everyone to get off the train and wait for the next one. When you can't figure something out, sometimes the best solution is to forget about it all together and start over.
Bloxham later reported that it all may have been a simple typo in the teacher's answer key. No word on if Bloxham ever got confirmation on Facebook if that was the case or not. But at this point, do we really need any additional proof?
There's no need to debate the question any further. The correct answer is 65, and if a teacher's book says otherwise then it must be a misprint. Now, whether or not this question is reasonable to give to a six-year-old is still up for debate.