This Math Puzzle Given To Fifth Graders In China Has The Internet Confused

By Mark Pygas

4 months ago

A math puzzle given to grade five pupils at a school in Nanchong, China, has left the Internet rather confused after a local news website shared photos of the questions online over the weekend.

According to *The Star*, the question asks students to determine the age of a ship’s captain if there were 26 sheep and 10 goats on the vessel. Yes, we were as confused as you are.

The education bureau confirmed that the question is legitimate and does have a few answers.

“The role of education is not to produce standardised spare parts. Each answer can reflect a different personality. A question that can have different answers is a good question,” their statement read.

The answer? Sit down for this one. People came up with a few on Chinese social media website Weibo.

"The captain is at least 18 because he has to be an adult to drive the ship," one student answered according to theBBC.

"The captain is 36, because 26+10 is 36 and the captain wanted them to add up to his age," another guessed.

And then there's this one...

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

"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."

Other Weibo commenters complained that the question made no sense.

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

While another added...

"This question makes no logical sense at all. Does the teacher even know the answer?"

Some came out in support of the question.

"The whole point of it is to make the students think. It's done that," one person wrote.

"This question forces children to explain their thinking and gives them space to be creative. We should have more questions like this," another added.

Twitter wasn't nearly as kind, though...

In a Chinese primary school #math problem-solving exam, given data is there are 26 sheep + 10 goats in a vessel.

— Jake Lanuza (@videosniper) January 29, 2018

Q: Determine the Captain's age

A: Insufficient Data.

It's not unusual for students to encounter critical thinking Q in an exam. Is there a need to be flummoxed?

LoL. Good point. Average weight max is 150 kg .. even if you consider 150 per animal - it needs 51 to weigh 7700.. that guy has screwed it up. I guess the answer is - more than 18 years - min. age to get licence.. 5 th std class...

— Amar (@synapse_doc) January 31, 2018

I would have written "42", but apparently the technical right answer is "28" or above...

— Mads Nybo Jorgensen (@madsvid) January 31, 2018

Well done @BBCKarishma for solving that mystery.

BBC News - '#Unsolvable' #math #exam question leaves Chinese students flummoxed - "If a ship had 26 sheep & 10 goats onboard, how old is the ship's captain?" Explained by the Dept: to "#enable students to #challenge #boundaries & #think #out of the #box": https://t.co/SuKP48zHqv

— Pauline Chow (@opchow) January 30, 2018

Well. If the Captain gets a 🐑 for every birthday he has, and a 🐐 for every 🐑 that passes away. That would make the Captain 36. He’s 36.

— Kirby Mack, or Not. (@NotKirbyMack) January 31, 2018

The correct answer is there is insufficient data to establish with any accuracy how old the captain is and the data provided is irrelevant to the question.

— Ian McTernan (@Viking_Leftover) January 31, 2018

The answer is simple:

— Unwash YourBrain (@WisePyramid) January 31, 2018

"insufficient data to determine the solution"

Can sheep or goat be captain of boat?

— LALIT SHARMA (@LALITSHARMAHP) January 31, 2018

Because ship have only sheep and goats, no human.

life expectancy of sheep is 10-12, of goat 15-18.

So goat of age 15 year should be captain. Unless there is retirement age for goat also, in that case should be 80% of 15 i.e. 12.

To be fair this is how most mathematical problems sounded to me at school.

— Nicci Read (@VocalFreesia) January 31, 2018

Very few things surprises me, today.

— Wayne A. Morris (@Lacus09) January 30, 2018

What do you think of the question?