We’ve all probably seen these posts on social media – little puzzles that all-but claim to be the hardest mathematical thing you’ll ever see, and after seeing another one I’ve had enough.
So this is going to be a guide for whoever is creates them: “How to keep post your little puzzle without it being #fakemaths”.
1) Don’t head up the ‘problem’ with “only for genius”, “only expects can solve”, or similar – mainly because that is so very far from the truth. Maybe call it a number puzzle – after all, that is all it is.
2) Don’t make claims about ~97% of people failing! There’s no such thing as failing at one of these (you’ve just not found the correct solution yet), and clearly that is a made up percentage.
3) Type 1 puzzles – misuse of symbols, my pet peeve! Don’t take mathematical symbols that already have a set meaning and try to repurpose them (it’s either done because you’re trying to deceive or you don’t know any better, and neither is a good enough reason).
Using ⊕ is one option, although that still has its uses, the best solution would be to use function notation (no misuse there!):
You could then actually ask people then to describe what f(x,y) is!
4) Type 2 puzzles – BIDMAS (like the one above). Orders of operations is not a trick, these are hardly puzzles in themselves, boring move on!
5) Type 3 puzzles – simultaneous equations. Writing these things as a collection of silly pictures almost actively prevents people from simplifying the expressions and using maths to solve them. Plus most of the time the pictures have stupid subtle changes that are designed to trick the reader into using the wrong value – very boring!
6) Type 4 puzzles – misusing percentages, especially when you’ve tried to assign each letter in the alphabet its own percentage from 1-26 (forgetting that 1-26 are not percentages, so the maths in the bottom half of above picture is complete rubbish to go with it:
Rant over. I’m sure there are more types… link me any more that you’ve found / been confronted by.