The Second-Grade Math Problem No One Can Figure Out

Time to dust off those math textbooks!

Mathematicians, are you ready? This second-grade math problem is a doozy—and it seems like no one can figure it out. (By the way, if you can solve this math puzzle, you’re probably a genius.)

Angie Werner, the mother of a second-grader named Ayla, was left scratching her head after reading her daughter’s math homework on January 24, according to popsugar.com. Werner was so stumped she posted a photo of the question in a Facebook group called Breastfeeding Mama Talk to get other mothers’ insights—and unsurprisingly, they were pretty confused, too.

The question is: “There are 49 dogs signed up to compete in the dog show. There are 36 more small dogs than large dogs signed up to compete. How many small dogs are signed up to compete?”

To break it down, if there are 49 dogs total, and there are 36 more small dogs than large dogs, you’d subtract 36 from 49. By that measure, there are 13 large dogs and 36 small dogs… so that means the answer is 36 small dogs, right? Is that a trick question? Apparently not.

The-Second-Grade-Math-Problem-No-One-Can-Figure-OutTatiana Ayazo/Rd.com, Shutterstock

The real answer is 42.5. Yes, 42 and a half dogs. Yet somehow, even with the correct answer, we’re still scratching our heads. A half dog? Yes—here’s why: 49 minus 36 is 13. Thirteen divided by two is six and a half. So, 36 plus six and a half equals 42.5.

According to an update provided to POPSUGAR, Ayla’s math teacher confirmed you should be getting 42.5 as your final answer—but many math whizzes out there disagree, stating the answer is actually 6.5. Ayala’s math teacher explains a mixup occurred in the wording of the original math problem, though: “Angie [the mom] gave POPSUGAR an update after hearing back from the teacher, writing: ‘The district worded it wrong. The answer would be 42.5, though, if done at an age-appropriate grade,'” according to popsugar.com.

Did you get the answer right on your first try? Next, give this tricky third-grade math problem a whirl and see how you do. If you think you can do better than that, try these hard math problems that will make your head spin.

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Brittany Gibson
Brittany Gibson is a regular contributor to RD.com’s culture, food, health, and travel sections. She was previously an editorial intern for RD.com and Westchester Magazine. Her articles have appeared on Buzzfeed, Business Insider, AOL, Yahoo, and MSN, among other sites. She earned a BA in English from the University of Connecticut