If You Solve This Math Problem on the First Try, You Might Be a Genius

This equation may seem simple at first, but it’s way harder than it looks.

beautiful cute little girl with math formulas and problemsMorrowind/Shutterstock

Calling all number nerds: Put away your calculators! We have a problem that is sure to put your mathematical minds to the test. Do you think you have what it takes? (By the way, these habits prove you’re smarter than most, too.)

First, here is the equation: 9 – 3 ÷ 1/3 + 1 = ?

That’s it! Before you start, though, we should leave you with a brief warning. This equation may seem simple at first, but it’s way harder than it looks. In fact, only about 60 percent of the engineers got the correct answer on the first try, according to a Japanese study.

If your first instinct was to solve the problem from left to right, your guess is probably 3. But don’t forget to use the PEMDAS rule—“Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally,” or “Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction”—which gives the order in which to calculate each set of numbers.

The fraction adds another hurdle to this problem, too. Suddenly, what was once a simple equation now looks like a numerical nightmare. (The Internet can’t solve this third-grade math problem, either.)

Need a hint? TipHero suggests dividing 3 ÷ 1/3 first. Remember that dividing fractions actually requires you to multiply, so you should get 9 as the answer. Adding that to the rest of the equation, you’re left with 9 – 9 + 1.

Now, the PEMDAS rules call for you to solve all addition and subtraction problems in the order they appear. So instead of adding first, you will solve the equation from left to right.

If your final answer is 1, congrats! You are correct. But for those who are still stumped, you’re not alone. You can watch this entire video to see how they calculated the solution.

Whether or not you solved the equation on the first try, there is certainly more where that came from. See if you can solve this “simple” math puzzle for children next. Then, test your knowledge with this elementary school math test–study up with these tips for bettering your mental math! 

[Source: TipHero]

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Brooke Nelson
Brooke Nelson is a researcher at PBS FRONTLINE in Boston, Massachusetts, and writes regularly about travel, health, and culture news for Reader’s Digest. Previously she was a staff writer at Reader's Digest. Her articles have also appeared on MSN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance, among other sites. She earned a BA in international relations from Hendrix College. Follow her on Twitter @BrookeTNelson.