Once again, a children’s math problem is making the rounds on social media, and it’s confusing adults. Can you figure it out?
The problem below first made the rounds of social media in May of 2016, according to Metro. Now, here in the third week of June 2017, it’s making the rounds again (social media trends come and go, sometimes over the course of years). And you may have already run across it today on your own social media feeds. Here’s the text of the problem.
- There were some people on a train.
- 19 people get off the train at the first stop.
- 17 people get on the train.
- Now there are 63 people on the train.
- How many people were on the train to begin with?
Lest you conclude that there’s some sort of chicanery in the wording of the problem (similar to the old Three Words Ending In -Gry problem) and start parsing the way the words are structured, rest assured that’s not it. This is a math problem, not an English problem. Further, there are no extra steps in the problem, such as a hypothetical second stop, or some deliberate ambiguity such as “no one said there weren’t more than 19 people getting off or 17 people getting on.” There’s none of that.
Before reading any further and seeing the solution, write your own answer in the comments below.
Now, on to the solution. The answer is 65. Think it through: 65 people are on the train. At the first stop, 19 people get off, leaving 46 people on board. Another 17 get on. 46 + 17 = 63. Problem solved.
Except the simple solution has apparently been eluding some adults for almost a year now.
The woman who originally posted the problem (and who has since deleted it), ranted that the problem, which was in her daughter’s second-grade math textbook, was too hard for adults to figure out, let alone schoolchildren. She insisted that the answer was 46 (how she got there is unclear), which threw several commenters off.
Other commenters insisted that the 19 people getting off was somehow a red herring, or that the train was empty to begin with (how could 19 people have gotten off, then?).
This is not the first time that a math problem intended for children has confused adults. As the Telegraph reported in January of this year, Facebook users the Holderness Family found the following problem in their first grader’s textbook!
The answer, by the way, seems to be J=14. Not for nothing, I don’t get it, and I have a college degree (though not in math). And I’m not going to explain the solution, lest this article run to thousands of words. Read the linked Telegraph article for an explanation of the solution.
Were you able to solve either of these children’s math puzzles?
[Featured Image by Aaron Homer]