A fifth grader in Marion County, Ohio was having trouble with her math homework, so she asked for help from an unlikely source. The 10-year-old girl took a chance and messaged the Facebook account of the Marion Police Department. As it turned out, whoever was managing the page at the time had trouble following orders, or at least the order of operations.
The student first said that she was having trouble figuring out the answer for (8 + 29) x 15. The Marion PD’s response to that problem was correct, telling her to add the numbers in parentheses first, saying, “in essence it would be 37 x 15.”
The next one proved to be a little tougher, (90 + 27) + (29 + 15) x 2. Both the student and her newfound tutor knew to add the numbers in each set of parentheses first, but they forgot what to do next. The police representative said to add the sums of each set of parentheses together, and then multiply the total by 2. But anyone familiar with the correct order of operations in math problems, commonly known by the acronym PEMDAS, knows that while taking care of everything in parentheses does come first, multiplication comes before addition (PEMDAS, of course, being short for parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction). So they should have multiplied the sum of the second parentheses by two, and then added the rest.
It wasn’t until the girl’s mother posted screenshots of the conversation on Facebook that a friend caught the error, according to ABC.
It’s unknown whether the girl figured out the right answer before her homework was due, or if the problem remained an unsolved mystery.
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