The internet has long been a place for debate, with viral puzzles and riddles often leaving people scratching their heads. One of the most recent examples of this is a math problem that sparked a heated debate online, reminiscent of the infamous blue and black dress debate. The math conundrum, posted on Twitter in 2019, has since gone viral, causing confusion and even disagreement among professionals, including mathematicians and scientists.

The problem in question is this: **8 ÷ 2(2 + 2)**. At first glance, it seems like a simple arithmetic problem, but as soon as people started to solve it, controversy erupted. What initially seemed like a straightforward question became a divisive issue, leading to online debates and even discussions among colleagues in workplaces across the world.

### Two Camps: The Answer Is 16

One group, including editors from *Popular Mechanics* magazine, solved the equation using the familiar PEMDAS rule, which stands for Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction. This rule, taught in schools around the world, dictates the order in which mathematical operations should be performed. According to this rule, you first solve what’s inside the parentheses: **2 + 2**, which equals 4. That leaves you with **8 ÷ 2(4)**.

Now, according to PEMDAS, multiplication and division should be handled from left to right. This means that the division operation should be completed first: **8 ÷ 2**, which equals 4. Then, the remaining equation is **4 × 4**, which gives the final answer of 16.

This answer satisfied many who believed that the standard order of operations had been correctly applied. Several online math resources, including *Mashup Math*, supported this approach, reinforcing the idea that division comes before multiplication when reading from left to right.

### The Other Side: The Answer Is 1

However, not everyone agreed with this solution. Another group of people, including some editors from *Popular Mechanics*, argued that the answer should actually be 1. Their reasoning came from a different interpretation of the equation. Like the first group, they agreed that the parentheses should be solved first, leaving **2(4)**. But in their approach, the multiplication implied by the parentheses should take precedence over the division.

In this interpretation, they treat the equation as **8 ÷ (2 × 4)**, which changes the order in which the operations are performed. Instead of doing the division first, they multiply **2 × 4** to get 8, and then divide **8 ÷ 8**, which results in 1.

This interpretation aligns with how some people are taught that multiplication implied by parentheses holds priority, regardless of its position in the equation. It’s a different take on the PEMDAS rule, leading to further confusion and debate.

### Mathematicians Weigh In

As the debate raged on across social media and workplaces, mathematicians and experts joined the conversation. Mike Breen, representing the Public Awareness Office of the American Mathematical Society, stepped in to clarify the issue. According to Breen, the correct answer, based on the standard order of operations, is 16. He explained that when following PEMDAS strictly, you would indeed get 16 as the result.

However, Breen acknowledged the controversy, admitting that the way the problem was written made it “ambiguous.” He noted that mathematical equations should be as clear as possible to avoid confusion like this. While the correct answer is 16 by conventional standards, Breen was understanding toward those who arrived at 1, acknowledging that different interpretations of the rules exist.

### Physics Professor Offers Insight

In an attempt to settle the ongoing debate, *Popular Mechanics* sought the help of Physics Professor Rhett Allain from Southeastern Louisiana University. Allain provided a simple yet insightful explanation, likening the debate to differences in spelling conventions, like “gray” versus “grey.” He emphasized that while we have conventions for solving math problems, people can interpret them differently.

Allain suggested that the problem would have been clearer if written as **8 ÷ (2 × (2 + 2))**, which would have resulted in the answer of 1. This, he noted, avoids the ambiguity that led to the viral controversy.

### Conclusion

Despite expert opinions, the debate over this math problem highlights how even simple-looking equations can lead to widespread confusion. The difference in interpretation boils down to how people understand the order of operations, showing that math, like language, can sometimes be open to debate. Whether you believe the answer is 16 or 1, this problem serves as a reminder that clarity in math is crucial to avoiding unnecessary confusion.