## Thursday, 1 March 2018

In our Flatland podcast Thomas asked the question:
What is six divided by two plus one times two?
You can hear the solution in our Oxford Murders podcast or read on below.

So what did you get?
1?
4?
5?
Something else completely?

Well, whatever your answer is, you're completely correct (as long as you did the arithmetic correctly).

The problem with the phrase
What is six divided by two plus one times two?
is that it can be read in many different ways. For example, it could mean

6/2+1x2=5

or

(6/(2+1))x2=4

or

6/((2+1)x2)=1

or

6/(2+1x2)=3/2

The original statement is ambiguous and so providing a specific answer is difficult.

Your host, Thomas, was once interviewed on radio about a similar ambiguous statement. Have a listen below.

This sort of problem makes the rounds on the internet a lot, below is a Japanese version,
which shows that it is not just simply a problem with language. Mathematical operators can be written ambiguously as well.

Thus, if you arrive at such a question, the answer is not to angry, but try and understand how other people read the question.