A Fifth-Grade Math Problem Has The Internet Scratching Their Heads! Can You Solve It?

You haven’t known true terror until you’ve come across a math problem during exams that you cannot solve. For me, that was every single math paper ever because if there’s anything I was a 100% sure of as an 11-year-old, it was this: I HATED MATH. Which is why, I felt some next-level sympathy for a bunch of fifth graders from China who came face-to-face with a similar terror.

Fifth standard students of a school in Shunging district of China scratched their heads over what seemed an ‘unsolvable’ math problem during a recent examination.

It left everyone flummoxed, including the students, their parents and eventually as it went viral, social media too.

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Okay, no. Don’t worry, I won’t put you through deciphering both Math and Chinese language simultaneously. Here’s the English translation of the problem:

“If a ship had 26 sheep and 10 goats onboard, how old is the ship’s captain?”

Excuse me but WHAT?

Did reading this question make you go “Connection kya hai, boss?” then welcome to the club. Because, TBH, I can’t even! And seems like neither can the Chinese social media, which is currently engaged in debate over it.

However, if you, like me, are ready to lay down your weapons and proclaim this question as a grave error, then here’s some news for you: It is an absolutely correct question!

Image Courtesy: YRF

Oh yes, yes. According to BBC, the officials from the education department have said that there’s nothing wrong with the math problem. In fact, it is meant to test the students’ ‘critical awareness’ and ‘independent thinking’.

In their official statement, they said,

“Some surveys show that primary school students in our country lack a sense of critical awareness in regard to mathematics.”

The nigh ‘unsolvable’ math problem has garnered several possible solutions, some sensible, some rather ridiculous.

One student made the rather obvious inference that the captain had to be at least 18 and an adult to be able to drive the ship. Another added up number of goats and sheep and guessed the age was 26.

However, things got rather hilarious when people began trolling the teachers for selecting such a question!

“If a school had 26 teachers, 10 of which weren’t thinking, how old is the principal?”

What about you? Have you given up trying to crack this problem wide open? Well, don’t lose sleep over it, because someone on Weibo has come up with what could be the most likely ‘correct’ answer to the problem.

Brace yourselves for the grand finale ‘cos here it comes!

The total weight of 26 sheep and 10 goat is 7,700 kg, based on the average weight of each animal.

In China, if you’re driving a ship that has more than 5,000 kg of cargo you need to have possessed a boat license for five years.

The minimum age for getting a boat’s license is 23, so he’s at least 28.


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Okay, see I get you, Education Department. I get where you’re coming from with all the ‘critical awareness’ shebang. But peeps, I think the world already has enough reasons to hate math. Like, do you realise you’re not helping here?

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