Math problems asked of 10-year-old students in England are stumping people across the internet, including some professional mathematicians.
Two problems were presented, asking students to determine the length of the perimeter of composite rectilinear shapes. These are a class of polygons composed of a series of interconnecting rectangles, like a single porch built along two sides of a house.
The math questions were presented in a two-page homework assignment provided to year five students at a school in Glossup, England. Stumped while trying to solve the problems, one young student asked his father for help. The father, living in the UK with his family, undertook special training in both mathematics and economics. Puzzled why he could not derive the answer, the 43-year-old father posted the homework questions on Facebook in an attempt to solve the problems.
"My son's grandma had spent a while helping him with his homework and most of it was straightforward but this one question left her stumped. I then spent an hour or so trying to work it out but found it impossible. I even sent it to a friend who got a 1st class degree in economics and they were baffled by it as well," the father stated.
One of the problems attempting to solve the problems is that very little information is provided concerning the length of the known sides. The way the diagrams accompanying the questions are labeled also lend to the uncertainty, as lengths are provided without a clear explanation of which side to which they apply.
As the question spread across the internet, people tweeted their responses, with occasionally tart responses from people certain they had the correct answer, or someone else was proposing an incorrect solution.
The pair of questions in geometry are possible to solve, as a few people have proven the answers are 44 in both cases. However, the mathematical processes needed to arrive at the conclusion are far beyond the skill level of nearly any 10-year-old, not to mention most adults.
Skills in mathematics often fade with age, a phenomenon many parents cited in their failure to solve the geometric problems. However, people of all ages struggled with the questions once they spread through virtual media.
Pupils, along with the general public, have been confused before by questions presented to students by school systems in the United Kingdom. In 2015, a 10-year-old girl contacted the BBC in an effort to receive help on her homework in mathematics.