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Internet Outraged Over Senseless Math Problem

| by Sean Kelly
the confusing math problemthe confusing math problem

A confusing, senseless math question at an elementary school quickly went viral, highlighting what many believe to be faults within the education system in the U.S.

The photo was first shared to Reddit by user Xtreme1461 on March 23, with the caption, "The American education system."

"Reasonableness: Marty ate 4/6 of his pizza and Luis ate 5/6 of his pizza. Marty ate more pizza than Luis. How is that possible?" the tricky question asked.

The student then answered the question — reasonably assuming that Marty had more pizza because his pizza was bigger than Luis'.

"That is not possible because 5/6 is greater than 4/6 so Luis ate more," the teacher wrote in response.

The teacher's incorrect grade garnered criticism, as many said the question was structured strangely.

"The question does not explicitly state that the pizzas were the exact same size," A Plus explained. "The only information available are two statements and a question that, as worded, requires an outcome of possibility based on the preceding statements."

"A correctly worded question would be something like 'Marty and Luis have pizzas of the same size. Luis eats 4/6 of his pizza, Marty eats 5/6 of his pizza. Luis ate more pizza than Marty, is this possible?'" Redditor ConstableBlimeyChips wrote on Reddit.

The main problem with the question, aside from not explaining the pizza sizes, was the wording. Many Redditors took issue with the word "reasonableness," which user AllUltima researched and ultimately explained the meaning of.

AllUltima wrote:

Okay, after googling and reading what is meant by "reasonableness" here, I think I understand this better. Apparently they are trying to combat the problem of kids making arithmetic errors which give absurd answers (like sums being less than you started with, negative values that should be positive, etc), by attempting to make them think critically about whether an answer makes any sense at all. They are trying to make kids detect absurdities of mathematical quantities. So they come up with questions like this.

However, this question is terribly worded. "How is that possible" sounds like you're supposed to reason a way it could be possible. They really should do a better job making sure it's actually not possible, as worded "Marty has a bigger pizza" is a perfectly logical conclusion to the question as worded. And the teacher should recognize the poorly worded question.

Many Redditors said the math problem is an example of the faults in the current American education system.

"Given the state of our Education system, why do you expect the teachers to be any more intelligent or better educated?" one commented.

"I had a wise older woman for a physics teacher who was vehemently against our states standardized testing for this reason," another wrote. "She said that there is a difference between a test of knowledge and a test that's just trying to trick you and get you."

Sources: Xtreme1461/Reddit, A Plus / Photo credit: Alberto G/Flickr, Imgur

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