Foiled Plan: How A Viral Post Taught FOIL Method, Effective Planning Skills In One Pic

Do you remember the FOIL method from math class?

If you have taken at least one year of Algebra, chances are that you are at least somewhat familiar with what is known as the FOIL method. However, if it has been a number of years since you have taken that class, the mere mention of this mathematical system probably brought back a flood of memories to your mind.

That major dose of nostalgia was experienced by numerous people on Facebook with a particular photo that used the FOIL method on the four-letter word “PLAN.”

foil method

As seen in the picture, the word “PLAN” is first broken up into a series of combinations – including two-letter groups as well as small groups in multiple parentheses. At first glance, it might be a little confusing primarily because it looks like it could be some sort of word puzzle or riddle that you need to figure out.

However, the five-word statement at the bottom of the viral photo – “Your plan has been foiled” – speaks volumes and provides that nostalgic smack to the face that most adults were not expecting.

What is the FOIL method? How does it work? What is its purpose?

According to Algebra Help, the FOIL method is used to multiply two binomials together in the wonderful world of algebra.

The FOIL method essentially expands the concept followed within the Distributive Property of mathematics. When multiplying a single term by a binomial [ex: (x+3)], the Distributive Property requires you to multiply the single term by both factors inside of the parentheses.

For example, to solve 7(x+3), you will have to multiply 7 with the x and then with the 3 separately – creating 7x + 21.

The FOIL method comes in handy when you have to multiply two binomials together instead of one binomial and a single term – such as (x+6)(x+3). It is actually an acronym that explains the order of multiplication that you should follow when multiplying the terms within each binomial: First, Outside, Inside, Last (or FOIL).

To solve (x+6)(x+3) using the FOIL method, you would:

  • Multiply the first terms in each parentheses (x times x = x squared)
  • Multiply the outside terms (x times 3 = 3x)
  • Multiply the inside terms (6 times x = 6x)
  • Multiply the last terms (6 x 3 = 18)

Therefore, when you simplify your terms after using the FOIL method, you will have – x squared + 9x (or 3x+6x)+ 18.

Even though there have been other systems and methods developed over the years to multiply binomials, the FOIL method has apparently found a way to stick around.


Keeping that refresher on the FOIL method in mind, you can now look at the four-letter word PLAN and pay close attention to how it is broken down in the picture.

First, it was split up into two binomials.

“(P + L)(A + N)”

Using the FOIL method – First, Outside, Inside, Last – and multiplication, that explains how the PLAN was broken down and foiled mathematically.

“PA + PN + LA + LN”

Why is this picture so catchy? Well, you have to think about the definition of the word “foil” – especially when it comes to making plans.

Dictionary defines the word as “to prevent the success of.” Therefore, when you someone or something foils your plans, it seems to get in your way – preventing you from being successful.

However, this particular Facebook photo shines a new perspective on the concept of foiled plans overall. In most cases, foiled plans are viewed as absolute failures, causing people to feel the need to start from scratch and go back to the drawing board. However, as seen by using the FOIL method of mathematics, that is not necessarily the case.

Even a foiled plan can prevent a lot of value as long as you take the time to go through the steps and break it down piece by piece. Taking that time to focus on rebuilding the foiled plan helps you to appreciate that it all adds up (pun intended) in the long run.

This simple picture may have transformed the simple word “PLAN” into a nostalgic nightmare of Algebra class and the FOIL method. However, perhaps it also presents a life lesson that should be remembered and cherished even more.

[Image Credit: Dollar Photo Club]