## This Chinese Math Problem Has No Answer. Perhaps, It Has a Lot of Them. (washingtonpost.com) 443

Fifth-graders in China's Shunqing district were recently asked to answer this question:

**"If a ship had 26 sheep and 10 goats on board, how old is the ship's captain?"**The Washington Post:*The apparently unsolvable question sparked a debate over the merits of the Chinese education system and the value it places on the memorization of information over the importance of developing critical thinking skills. "Some surveys show that primary school students in our country lack a sense of critical awareness in regard to mathematics," a statement by the Shunqing Education Department posted Jan. 26 reportedly said. One student offered a pragmatic law-abiding answer: "The captain is at least 18 because he has to be an adult to drive the ship." Meanwhile on Twitter, some have gone with 42, a reference to the science fiction novel "A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," by Douglas Adams, in which 42 is the "Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything."*BBC:*"If a school had 26 teachers, 10 of which weren't thinking, how old is the principal?" another asked. Some however, defended the school -- which has not been named -- saying the question promoted critical thinking. "The whole point of it is to make the students think. It's done that," one person commented. "This question forces children to explain their thinking and gives them space to be creative. We should have more questions like this," another said.*
## There is always an answer (Score:5, Funny)

## Re:There is always an answer (Score:5, Insightful)

If you wanted to make this exercise more useful, I'd rephrase the question (to something that's not immediately obvious) and once they've figured out that they lack sufficient data, ask them what information they would need to produce an answer. Knowing that you have insufficient data to answer a question is one thing, but understanding what is missing and how to go about getting it is a highly valuable critical thinking exercise.

## Re: (Score:3, Funny)

You really need to mark this as sarcasm. Bear in mind that a lot of people reading this are from the USA...

## ...and a time to search for that answer (Score:2)

Asking questions for which there is insufficient data to determine the unique correct answer is confusing and a waste of time, because they will never see such questions in real life.

The difference is that in real life you usually have some data relevant to answering the question. If you don't then you go out and get something and infer the age of the captain from that. If you want to test critical thinking a better question would have included some details related to the age of the captain e.g. was s/he married, did s/he have kids and if so what were their ages, how big was the ship?, how many years had they been a captain etc. However then you would have need to provide data on the a

## Re: (Score:3)

## Re: (Score:3)

I do this for work. Many of the problems I'm confronted with have no single, unique correct answer. It's a choice. In fact, this describes much application and computing system design.

But I do have a marginally useful amount of data, and some of it is in fact germane, so I'm not as bad off as 'If I have 600,000 users who need this feature, and it will cost $1,000 per user to maintain it for another year, how much will it cost me to deprecate the feature and force those users onto another platform?'

Or maybe

## Re:There is always an answer (Score:5, Funny)

My guess is you aren't great with critical thinking simply based off your post here.

My guess is that you wouldn't know sarcasm if it bit you on the ass. I don't know how I could have made it any more obvious.

## Re: (Score:2)

## Re:There is always an answer (Score:5, Funny)

## Re:There is always an answer (Score:5, Funny)

## Re: (Score:3)

I would like to note that I'm almost certainly the thickest sod here on /. and I even felt the dripping sarcasm in the initial post.

## Re:There is always an answer (Score:5, Insightful)

But I see a lot of people didn't get it. Oh well.

## Re:There is always an answer (Score:5, Informative)

Poe's law is an adage of Internet culture stating that, without a clear indicator of the author's intent, it is impossible to create a parody of extreme views so obviously exaggerated that it cannot be mistaken by some readers or viewers as a sincere expression of the parodied views.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

## The turn of the century wants its joke back. (Score:3)

## Re: (Score:3)

Hillary has lived in NY State for some 18 years now, which is longer than I've had this account.

You sure about that? Because I am positive I've had my account over 18 years and I'm almost 500,000 above you.

## Re: (Score:3)

I first started to visit Slashdot in 1998 at my first IT job where the Lead Linux System Admin made it the home page for every box. A little research shows that accounts started in the summer of 1998, not sure why I waited as long as I did to create an account, but my other active account is about 20% lower in 'rank'. Trying to figure out the date of registration for either was a lost cause as Slashdot doesn't seem to display a CREATE_DATE and no longer allows one to go back more more than a couple of pag

## Re:There is always an answer (Score:5, Insightful)

What have I got in my pocket?

## Re: There is always an answer (Score:2, Funny)

dunno - are you glad to see me?

## Re: (Score:2)

What have I got in my pocket?

A fish!

## Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

Sneaky little Hobbitses. Wicked. Tricksy. False.

## Re:There is always an answer (Score:5, Funny)

...at which point, he pulled out a snub nose .38 and emptied it in Goddamn's direction.

He would have fired again, but pity stayed his hand, "A pity I had no more bullets."

## The answer is (Score:5, Funny)

## Re: (Score:3)

No, that won't do it. It has to be:

Step 3: ??????

## Re: There is always an answer (Score:3)

## Re:There is always an answer (Score:5, Interesting)

I wouldn't complain about that exam for any snowflake reasons, I'd complain about it because it's completely ignoring the last 60 years of exam theory research if given as stated. The most obvious problems with it:

The question difficulty needs calibrating. There are well-known tools (facility and omit rates) for doing this, but you need a very large population of exam sitters to properly calibrate an exam where every question is optional. This means that if candidate 1 answers questions 2, 3, 4, and 5 all correctly, but candidate 2 answers questions 6, 7, 8, and 9 all correctly then you almost certainly don't have enough information to be able to compare them at all, unless either you have a few tens of thousands of students sitting the exam, or you have a bank of questions that you're reusing and are doing pre-testing to calibrate them.

The ordering with respect to cohort means that your reliability is low. A single outlier at the top end will move everyone's marks down a lot. The lack of such an outlier will move everyone's grade up a lot. If your exam is meant to actually measure anything useful and not just be a dick-waving contest, then you'll need to do some normalisation and not use the scheme that you've proposed.

Your discrimination is likely to be all over the place. Most exams are intended to have high discrimination at specific places. For example, in admissions testing you have deselection tests that have high discrimination somewhere in the bottom half and selection tests that have high discrimination nearer the top. The first means that there's a big jump between the definite-reject and the possible-accept candidates, the second means that there's a big jump between the definite-accept and possible-accept students. For most graded exams, you want high discrimination between grade boundaries: if someone gets a B, you want to be confident that they're definitely worse than students who get an A and better than ones that get a C, but you don't care much about their ordering with respect to other students that get a B. This structure makes it almost impossible to design an exam for high discrimination.

If you want a snowflake reason, then your exam structure is likely to penalise women if it is being administered to teenage or undergraduate-age students, because they tend to be more negatively affected by time pressure than boys of the same age (this effect reduces with age).

TL;DR: It sounds like you like exams that don't measure anything useful, because you do well in them.

## How was this question graded? (Score:4, Insightful)

If the question has no answer and is supposed to foster critical or creative thinking, how did the teachers grade the answers?

What were the actual answers? As it stands, this is bullshit "news" cause the important part of the whole incident wasn't reported. Why am I not surprised that it's "news" from Jeff Bezos' Blog?

Did the pupils get full credit when they pointed out how the question is unanswerable? Did they get credit for the lower bound of 18? Did they get no credit for things like the 42 answer which is simply a lame old joke?

## Re: (Score:2)

But it do have a answer.

If you know Chinese Law, you might know, to drive such a boat, with such a carge(more than X tons), you might require a special license, and that license requires some age to even certify for it. I think the answer is "Older than 26" or something.

But there is further value in there: If used properly, you can study and see how kids react in panic, since very few will know or guess anywhere correctly. Its also a question of reading: Do you understand that only some facts are irrelevant

## Re:How was this question graded? (Score:5, Insightful)

The correct answer is: Méiyou zúgòu de xìnxi. (There is not enough information).

I used to live in Shanghai, and my (American) kids attended public schools there for several years. I was appalled at how much the math classes were based on drill, drill, drill with very little actual thinking. I am glad to see some "fuzzy" problems included.

There are some good things about Chinese math. For instance, in America teachers say "Show your work". In China, the teachers say "Do the math in your head, and only write down the answer". The teacher will call on kids to solve a problem written on the whiteboard, and make them do it with their hands behind their back. My kids can easily add up a column of numbers in their head, so when we eat at a restaurant, I always ask them to check the bill.

## Re:How was this question graded? (Score:5, Insightful)

For instance, in America teachers say "Show your work".

This was my bane all the way through school, I like numbers and figured lots of mental tricks (natural to me) for solving things, and was familiar with lots of number patterns (like powers of two), and so much of time answers were obvious to me, but I was marked down for not "showing" the work I never did. They didn't want me to know how to find the answer, they wanted me to crank through a rote procedure. As a simple example, if you add stuff up in your head there is no work to show.

This even showed up in calculus when one old instructor wanted me to show my use of the "three step rule" for differentiation. What "three step rule'?! It appears that at some earlier time basic transformations for differentiation, which to me was a simple one step procedure, were divided into three separate "steps" for pedagogic reasons, I guess, which were entirely unnecessary, and not found in any recent text - basically manufacturing unneeded work.

## Re:How was this question graded? (Score:4, Insightful)

"Show your work" is shorthand for "prove you didn't cheat".

Just dropping down an answer means that as far as they can tell you copied it off a friend, looked it up online, etc.

## Re:How was this question graded? (Score:5, Insightful)

"Show your work" is shorthand for "prove you didn't cheat".

That's part of it. "Show your work" also gives you partial marks if you had the correct reasoning but made a mistake somewhere along the way. It also reveals to the teacher if a large proportion of the class doesn't understand the same thing, so the teacher can concentrate on this.

But most of all, "show your work" is what real mathematicians do for a living. If you write a paper which says "the Goldbach conjecture is true, and I know because I proved it in my head", it will not get published because you need to show your work.

## Re:How was this question graded? (Score:4, Insightful)

"Show your work" also gives you partial marks if you had the correct reasoning but made a mistake somewhere along the way.

NO!!! This is NOT what happens in America's schools. If this was all that happened, that would be fine. The problem is that that if a kid gets the correct answer, points are TAKEN AWAY for not "showing your work".

If a kid is confident in his ability, and doesn't want to fall back on the crutch of "partial credit", there should be no requirement to "show work". That is just punishing smart kids by forcing them to do it "the stupid way". Schools should not be in the business of making kids dumber.

## Re:How was this question graded? (Score:4, Interesting)

The problem is that that if a kid gets the correct answer, points are TAKEN AWAY for not "showing your work".

Be sure to tell your reviewers that next time you submit a paper to an academic journal which is just a conclusion with no evidence for it. Maybe you'll get the lesson in the scientific method that your American school didn't give you.

BTW, you may have missed the word "also" in the sentence that you replied to.

## Re:How was this question graded? (Score:4, Informative)

Both happens in Germany.

Correct answer but not showing the way of calculation: only half the points. (Depending on school even 0 points)

Wrong answer, but correct calculation with some mistakes: 75% of the points.

Knowing HOW to do it is much more important than knowing the WHAT is the answer.

"That is just punishing smart kids by forcing them to do it "the stupid way".No it is not.Every medical operation follows a standard, there is no "short cut".

The only "show me your work" where I agree is unnecessary is adding up some numbers.

But even then you can write:

sum of those is 120. s = 120.

And in further calculation write:

s * s is 14400

And so on.

Just writing 1,600,123 as result is as dumb and showing no sign of smartness as writing down a wrong way of calculating it.

## Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

If you write down 42 as an answer, the marker doesn't know if you guessed, if you just copied the answer out of the mark book, or if you actually worked it out. If you show the calculations then it's easier to tell these apart.

When you're teaching maths, you're not teaching people to get the right answer to a problem, you're teaching them to be able to get the right answer to all problems in a category. Seeing the answer lets the marker know if they've succeeded in the first objective, showing the work

## Re:How was this question graded? (Score:5, Insightful)

The problem is that so many of those "intuitive" tricks that we build up in our heads are not actually true. We have no concrete proof that they're valid steps in the simplification of the problem. By demanding that you right down the steps you take, the teacher can point out when you take a step that doesn't actually hold up.

## Re: (Score:3)

That depends on the methods. Most people do large numbers on paper from right to left, but I can do it in my head in a sort of left to right blocking method. Take 56 * 27. I break that into the following steps:

(56 * 20) + (56 * 7)

1120 + (56 * 10) - (56 * 3)

1120 + (560 - 56 - 56 - 56)

1120 + (504 - 112)

1120 + 392

1512

In practice, it's not really different from the left to right method, except the numbers are easier for me to track in my head. YMMV, though.

## Re:How was this question graded? (Score:5, Insightful)

Why would I write down 162 + 199 and add it up, when I can just mentally add 161 + 200?

Why would I do long multiplication of 50*49, when I can do (50*50)-50 in my head?

I once watched a class mate add zero to a number on his calculator. Can we accept that there are some mental shortcuts that are valid?

## Re:How was this question graded? (Score:5, Insightful)

And why would you not write:

162 + 199 = 161 + 200 = 361? Takes no time.

And then you write: 50*49 = (50*50) -50 = 2450, takes no time either.

If you can do stuff in your mind, you can as well write down what you did in your mind, or not?

That is how I did it in school and no one complained.

## Re:How was this question graded? (Score:5, Insightful)

I'm sorry to hear that. As an instructor, I always encouraged my students to show their work for an entirely different reason.

As I would explain: if you do the problem correctly, you will get full credit. If you get the problem wrong, I will go through the work you've shown and try to give you as much partial credit as I can justify. If you don't show much work, I can't give you any partial credit and so you'll get zero points on the question.

This is the only fair way to do it. Students that get 90% of a problem right should get 9/10 possible points. But to do that, you really do have to encourage them to show their work in sufficient granularity for the instructor to grade it.

## Re:How was this question graded? (Score:4, Interesting)

"Trying hard" is no excuse for wrong answers.

He didn't say it was. The issue is, why was the answer wrong?

Teachers like you are why America is falling behind.

Teachers like him are trying to teach the concepts and measure the success of the student based on concepts and not trivial errors.

Which is more important? Knowing the equations behind equilibrium concentrations and the concept that an equilibrium exists, or the ability to poke numbers into a calculator and get a number that is close enough to be right?

As a TA in college, I graded lots of papers. If a student just wrote down a number and it was wrong, maybe because he made a mistake entering something in his calculator, I had to mark the problem completely wrong. No credit. He demonstrated neither an understanding of the problem nor the solution. He might have been an Einstein in chemistry, but without showing the work his wrong answer didn't show his mastery.

But, if the student showed his work, I could see that he did understand the problem. Maybe his solution was incorrect because he entered the exponent incorrectly and got the wrong number. Maybe he understood half the problem but not the other half. He could get credit for what he did know.

I used chemical equilibria as an example on purpose. Solving concentrations in a weak acid or base solution requires solving a quadratic equation for the full, complete answer. But there is a shortcut that gives "close enough"* answers when the numbers meet a certain criterion (low enough disassociation constant that the concentration of unionized chemical does not change significantly). If a student uses the shortcut when it does not apply, gets the wrong answer, but shows his work, I can properly critique and evaluate his answer, giving him partial credit. If he just has a number, it gets marked wrong.

I learned this the hard way, personal experience. I was taking the class I later TA'd and solved one problem using the full method. I decided it was easy enough to always use the full method so I did. I didn't show my work. The TA marked the answer wrong. What!? At the next discussion session I asked why it was wrong, and showed him step by step why it was right. Woopsies. He had created the answer key using the shortcut and it did not apply for that problem. His mistake. Had I shown my work, it would have saved his embarassment and everyone's time because he could have seen why his answer was wrong and corrected his key before anyone knew he made a mistake.

Is it better to grade "all or nothing" on a problem, or allow for human error in pressing buttons on a calculator and grant credit for what was shown?

* by "close enough" I mean "within the precision of the problem as stated", or "based on the number of significant digits". If you have a starting concentration that is valid to three digits, then an answer that is off in the fourth digit is "close enough".

## Re: (Score:3)

Hi Mr Internet Troll,

First, you don't know me. So maybe insults aren't the way to go.

Second, we did have a large part of tests that were rapid-fire multiple choice. I don't recall exactly, but it was something like 60-90s per question. We also had a part that was long-form questions where you should show your work.

The idea was to assess the students on both types of questions.

Lastly, this was mostly applicable to homework, the purpose of which is to be a learning exercise not a high-stakes test. We had high

## Re: (Score:3)

So the student that studies and knows the relevant formulas but makes a mathematical error somewhere gets the same amount of points as the student that showed up to class stoned and doesn't know a single thing?

Partially correct is good enough

for partial credit.## Re: (Score:2)

For instance, in America teachers say "Show your work". In China, the teachers say "Do the math in your head, and only write down the answer".

I hated that in grade school - I'd do additions by simply counting the numbers up in my head (much easier), then writing the answer down; of course, I wasn't "carrying the one's" so the teacher assumed I was using a calculator while doing my homework, so I had to start doing it "the stupid" way, with the little carries'n'crap so I wouldn't get marked down. Doing it this way was basically "drilled into" my head and took me a while to get it back out of my head.

## Re:How was this question graded? (Score:4, Insightful)

The correct answer is: Méiyou zúgòu de xìnxi. (There is not enough information)

No, the correct answer is today's date minus the captains date of birth.

## Re: (Score:2)

An essay has no answer. How do teachers grade essays?

## Essay Grading (Score:3)

On how much the essay aligns with the teacher's views.

## Someone needs to turn this on the educators. (Score:3, Funny)

Fun fact: only some of the students will learn critical thinking skills from this exercise. All of them will completely lose any respect for authority or education though. Some of them will suffer permanent mental scarring because of it.

## Re: (Score:2)

## the old LA one was more relevant (Score:5, Funny)

1. Johnny has an AK-47 with an 80-round clip. If he misses 6 out of 10 shots and shoots 13 times at each drive-by shooting, how many drive-by shootings can he attempt before he has to reload?

2. Jose has 2 ounces of cocaine and he sells an 8-ball to Jackson for $320 and 2 grams to Billy for $85 per gram. What is the street value of the balance of the cocaine if he doesn't cut it?

3. Rufus is pimping for three girls. If the price is $65 for each trick, how many tricks will each girl have to turn so Rufus can pay for his $800-per-day crack habit?

4. Jarone want to cut his 1/2 pound of heroin to make 20% more profit. How many ounces of cut will he need?

5. Willie gets $200 for stealing a BMW, $50 for a Chevy, and $100 for a 4X4. If he has stolen 2 BMWs, 3 4X4s, how many Chevies will he have to steal to make $800?

6. Raoul is in prison for 6 years for murder. He got $10,000 for the hit. If his common law wife is spending $100 per month, how much money will be left when he gets out of prison and how many years will he get for killing the bitch that spent his money?

7. If the average spray can covers 22 square feet and the average letter is 3 square feet, how many letters can a tagger spray with 3 cans of paint?

8. Hector knocked up 6 girls in his gang. There are 27 girls in the gang. What percentage of the girls in the gang has Hector knocked up?

9. Thelma can cook dinner for her 16 children for $7.50 per night. She gets $234 a month welfare for each child. If her $325 per month rent goes up 15%, how many more children should she have to keep up with her expenses?

10. Salvador was arrested for dealing crack and his bail was set at $25,000. If he pays a bail bondsman 12% and returns to Mexico, how much money will he lose by jumping bail?

## Re:the old LA one was more relevant (Score:5, Funny)

11. Bernie is a lookout for the gang. Bernie has a Boa Constrictor that eats 3 small rats per week at a cost of $5 per rat. If Bernie makes $700 a week as a lookout, how many weeks can he feed the Boa on one week's income? .357 Magnum. If it takes Joe 20 seconds to load his magnum, how far away will Billy be when he gets whacked?

12. Billy steals Joe's skateboard. As Billy skates away at 35 mph, Joe loads his

## Re: (Score:2)

## Re: (Score:2)

Overall grade: Low pass.

## Re: (Score:2)

I was thinking "Madoff"

## At least 28 years old (Score:5, Interesting)

The Washington Post article links to a BBC article containing the following [bbc.com]:

And of course, there's always that one person that has all the answers.The total weight of 26 sheep and 10 goat is 7,700kg, based on the average weight of each animal," said one Weibo commenter.

In China, if you're driving a ship that has more than 5,000kg 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.

## Re: (Score:2)

I'm not sure that problem solving is really equivalent to Sherlock Holmes level ability to memorize obscure reference material.

## Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

You don't need to memorize the material, but it is an extremely important lesson to learn that such material exists, and it's even relevant to advanced mathematics.

I don't remember most of my calculus days, but I do remember that most of my work consisted of trying random arbitrary approaches, and seeing which one advanced the problem toward the solution. Whether L'Hopital's rule, integration by parts, or other tactics I no longer remember, it's not always obvious how to proceed. Developing the skill to mat

## Re: (Score:2)

In China, if you're driving a ship that has more than 5,000kg of cargo...Irrelevant. The captain doesn't "drive" the ship, the helmsman does. (Strictly speaking of course, the helmsman steers the ship and the captain tells the helmsman what course to steer and how sharp to make any turns.) How old you have to be to have a proper helmsman's license has nothing to do with the captain's age.

## Common Core has the answer... (Score:3, Funny)

## Re: (Score:3)

## Fred Brooks interview question (Score:5, Interesting)

Johnny observes three stars through his telescope. The stars' temperatures are X, Y, and Z kelvin. What is the total temperature observed?

when he was asked to evaluate science textbooks for the school board in Pasadena.

## Re:Fred Brooks interview question (Score:5, Insightful)

if it's really as intended. But it's probably a typo that didn't get caught. They happen. Feynman has a story in one of his books about finding a math problem like

Johnny observes three stars through his telescope. The stars' temperatures are X, Y, and Z kelvin. What is the total temperature observed?

when he was asked to evaluate science textbooks for the school board in Pasadena.

I looked at the original article which Feynman wrote and your summary, while extremely condensed and accurate enough for here, just assumes that the reader will get the point of Feynman's dislike of the question. I bet most here will miss it. The reason that Feynman objected to the question in the textbook is that in real life there is no reason at all to add the temperatures of stars, not that the question had a horrible mistake in it. That's very different from the question in the parent article, which is to test critical thinking.

## Re: (Score:2)

## Re: (Score:3)

Your point is mostly correct, but Feynman's reasoning was driven by an underlying scientific truth: temperature is not additive. Trying to add temperatures is actually

mis-teachingabout science.Let me give you an example:

The average family income in America is $50,000. For a Dutch family it is $42,000. For a Chinese family it is $9000. What is the total income? (Answer: $101,000)

And it would be one thing to see such silliness in a math textbook, but would it be acceptable in an

economicstextbook?## This question first appeared in 1841... (Score:5, Informative)

... and is known as the 'age of the captain' problem, introduced by Gustave Flaubert, a french writer.

It's been used to study how children in elementary school react to word problems. It has notthing to do with maths.

See e.g. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3... [jstor.org]

## Re: (Score:3)

Mod up please. This is exactly the kind of quality information that makes me read the comments before the article. The entire discussion makes no sense without knowing this. Shame on The Washington Post for publishing making this sound like some controversial idiotic thing, without providing the basic background!

## Re:This question first appeared in 1841... (Score:5, Insightful)

Mod up please. This is exactly the kind of quality information that makes me read the comments before the article. The entire discussion makes no sense without knowing this. Shame on The Washington Post for publishing making this sound like some controversial idiotic thing, without providing the basic background!

Perhaps I could help explain with a math problem. Seems fitting.

Since hype and bullshit are proven revenue streams, how many clicks and likes does it take to dismiss journalistic integrity and relevant information?## It's all about enunciation (Score:2)

Shouldn't that be "20 sick sheep"?

## Sometimes weird problems DO have solutions (Score:2)

This reminds me of the married couple handshake problem- [cut-the-knot.org]

"My wife and I recently attended a party at which there were four other married couples. Various handshakes took place. No one shook hands with oneself, nor with one's spouse, and no one shook hands with the same person more than once. After all the handshakes were over, I asked each person, including my wife, how many hands he (or she) had shaken. To my surprise each gave a different answer. How many hands did my wife shake?"

There is a nice elegant

## Re: (Score:2)

And still a pointless excercise.

## Re: (Score:2)

## Re: (Score:2)

## Re: (Score:2)

## Re: (Score:2)

## Re: (Score:3)

Here is the analysis/answer given:

Among the five married couples no one shook more than eight hands. Therefore, if nine people each shake a different number of hands, the numbers must be 0, 1, 2, ..., and 8. The person who shook 8 hands has to be married to the person who shook 0 hands (otherwise that person could have shaken only seven hands.) Similarly, the person who shook seven hands is bound to be married to the person who shook 1 hand. So that the married couples shook hands in pairs 8/0, 7/1, 6/2, 5/3. The only person left who shook hands with 4 is my wife.

Except that there are two people at the party who shook no hands, apparently the question poser shook none also. So the actual pairings are 8/0, 7/1, 6/2, 5/3 and 4/0. His wife could be either the 4 hand shaker, or the 8 hand shaker, either way the answers satisfy the problem statement.

This logic puzzle requires unstated assumptions to derive the answer - which no logic puzzle should have. The question poser does not state that he is entirely excluded from the handshaking r

## It's the wildcard. (Score:2)

The answer to life, the universe and everything is the ascii value of the asterisk.

And Douglas Adams knew that.

The ASCII code for * is 42. Everything is the answer to Everything.

## Project requirements (Score:5, Funny)

The question sounds like the quality of requirements documents I've been handed. Life is full of self-important people telling you to do the impossible with inadequate information, tools, time, and money. Sounds like the kids got an early insight into the "Joy of work."

## The principal is around 50 (Score:2)

"If a school had 26 teachers, 10 of which weren't thinking, how old is the principal?"

I think his or her age will be around 50. A young principal would have got rid of the non-thinkers, but this one has been around enough years that there is some kind of loyalty/blackmail thing going on with those 10 teachers. If he were closer to retirement, he would not be as worried about blackmail; he could push back for a short while until he got his retirement locked in.

So he or she has been there a long time, but sti

## Hasek's The Good Soldier Svejk (Score:2)

Take a three-storied house, with eight windows on each floor. On the roof there are two dormer windows and two chimneys. On every floor there are two tenants. And now, tell me, gentlemen, in what year the valet's grandmother died.

## It's like sort of like Idiocracy (Score:2)

## Re: (Score:2)

## Isaac Asimov's response (Score:2)

And adding unrelated lower case letters because the filter is wrong. The capitals are correct in the quotation.

## Unsuitable question (Score:2)

There is not enough information to resolve the question --- if you found something you say is an answer, then it was a mere guess or it wasn't through reasoning. This does not encourage

Criticalthinking; it encourages guesstaking and making unverifiable questionable assumptions and coming up with creative answers."The captain is at least 18 because he has to be an adult to drive the ship."See, the question didn't provide any context to make that a reasonable proposition.

Who says the laws are being o

## Word problems as a test of understanding (Score:5, Interesting)

In one of Richard Feynman's books, he told about his experiences at a university in Brazil. He was horrified to realize that the students were ritually memorizing the course material with very little actual understanding.

When he asked questions in a way that echoed the textbook, students were able to recite an answer straight out of the book. But when he made up a "word problem" they were totally unable to answer.

A student was quizzed on physics, asked to compute what happens when light passes through a diamagnetic substance, and he recited the answer correctly and then calculated the correct result given the index and thickness of the substance. Immediately afterward, Feynman talked to that same student; Feynman held up a book and asked what would happen if the book was made of glass and he looked at something through the book. The student didn't realize that glass is a diamagnetic substance, and gave a very incorrect answer.

Richard Feynman on education in Brazil [v.cx]

In the domain of math questions, I saw an example: if a person has 4 boards of length 2.5 metres each, and cuts them with a saw, how many 1-metre boards can that person make? Obviously the correct answer is 8 (two per board, with 4 left-over pieces of length 0.5 metres minus the width of two saw cuts). If you were just playing with the numbers abstractly you might think that since 4 * 2.5 == 10 that you could produce ten 1-metre board segments. You can't actually glue together 4 boards to make a single board, and you can't actually make zero-width cuts.

I can't speak for others, but I enjoy word problems more than abstract problems. (Good ones, anyway... you can take a simple problem and write an annoying and confusing word problem, and nobody likes those.)

## NaN (Score:5, Insightful)

This problem is not sufficiently bounded to solve from a mathematical perspective.

(That's the actual answer... You don't need to be over 18 if you are piloting the boat illegally and there may not even be a captain.)

## Re: (Score:2)

If 2.4 rounds down to 2 then What's 2.4 + 2.4? Why it's 2.8, which clearly rounds up to 3....

Is this another example of Chinese Math? It's not a demonstration of the misunderstanding/misapplication of significant digits, I know that, although I think that's where you wanted to go.

Wouldn't Chinese math be something like "what is the sum of a character that looks like a garden gate over a triangular squiggle and a character that looks like a horse kind of with two small squares over it"? Does it round up or down?

## Re:And 2 + 2 is 5 for large values of 2... (Score:4, Funny)

what is the sum of a character that looks like a garden gate over a triangular squiggle and a character that looks like a horse kind of with two small squares over it?

Pah! easy: Steeplechase

Does it round up or down?

Depends on the bookie

## Re: (Score:2)

And 2 + 2 is 5 for large values of 2... Don't believe me?

If 2.4 rounds down to 2 then What's 2.4 + 2.4? Why it's 2.8, which clearly rounds up to 3....

How about that kind of math question?

That's just interval math, and actually the correct answer is between 4 and 6: (2 = a 3) + (2 = b 3) = (4 = x 6)

## Re: (Score:2)

## Re: (Score:3, Funny)

Oh yay slashdot ate my fucking html entities... are you kidding. (2 LESS-THAN-OR-EQUAL-TO a LESS-THAN 3) + (2 LESS-THAN-OR-EQUAL-TO a LESS-THAN 3) = (4 LESS-THAN-OR-EQUAL-TO a LESS-THAN 6)

Math is fucking hard on slashdot... they should make kids do it... ya know, in case of a post apocalypse where only ASCII chars are allowed.

## Re: (Score:3)

Easier to write 2 .LE. a .LT. 3. Fortunately, everyone understands FORTRAN.

## Re: (Score:3)

For some reason memories of Fortran programming projects from college just came flooding back to me. Be thankful you at least have upper and lower case characters to choose from.

## Re: (Score:2)

I'm pretty sure I've experienced something like this with Python's default rounding mechanisms, before I learned to explicitly require a specific type of variable.

## Re: (Score:2)

You aren't by chance an assembly line quality control 'specialist'?

The question does not specify a precision or tolerance, anything else is fudging the numbers - the argument is poor.

## Re: (Score:2)

Heh. Yes, I was reminded of an old joke that starts, "You are the bus driver." It then continues through a series of people getting on and off the bus at each stop, to get the listener adding and subtracting. And then at the end, "How old is the bus driver?"

## rigged call in quiz show bus question (Score:2)

rigged call in quiz show bus question

https://mikebattista.com/2009/... [mikebattista.com]

The Cats on a Bus puzzle has the hallmarks of a Moon Logic Puzzle: "4 girls are travelling on a bus. Each of them have 3 baskets, in each basket there are 4 cats. Each cat has 3 little kittens. How many legs are in the bus?" note "222": The kittens were not on the bus, and the count included the driver's legs, and the legs of the seats as well

Here's another one: "4 girls are travelling on a bus. In each hand they hold 4 baskets, i

## Re: (Score:2)

Or, to be traditional:

As I was going to St. Ives,

I met a man with seven wives.

Each wife had seven sacks,

Each sack had seven cats,

Each cat had seven kittens

Kits, cats, sacks, and wifes,

How many were going to St. Ives?

## Re: (Score:2)

## Re: (Score:2)

C'mon. If the impact was hard enough, not all of them are going to be moving too fast to be buried.

## Re: (Score:2)