Life is what you make it, and perhaps, it’s how you look at it, too. The same could be same for math puzzles–often there is more than one solution.   Of course, =when we’re young, we see the world as black and white.

And similar notions are often crammed down our throats, too, for such subjects as math and science.

But the truth is, the answer is only black and white if everyone agrees on the approach. And that doesn’t always happen.

It’s like the old elephant allegory. If a handful of people stand in a dark room with an elephant, and each describes what the elephant feels like, depending on where they stand, they will reach different conclusions. The person in front of the trunk says long, the person by the tail says thin, and the person by the side says flat and wrinkly.

So, on the topic of interpretation, how would you solve the following viral math problem?

Did you figure it out?  Which of the two solutions below did you find?

The first solution is:

  1. Most agree that 1 + 4 = 5.
  2. In the next line, add 2 + 5 to the sum of 5 in the equation above. That gives you the answer of 12.
  3. Next,  apply the same formula:  3 + 6 = 9, then add the 9 to the sum in the equation above (12) to get the total of 21.
  4. The last step is to  take the 8 + 11 in the last equation, which equals 19, and add it to the sum of the previous problem (21). This gives you a total of 40.

However, there is a popular second solution:

  1. The obvious truth is:  1 + 4 = 5. But you could also reach 5 by adding 1 to 4 times 1.
  2. In the same fashion, with the second line, 2 + 2(5) = 12.
  3. And the next line:  3 + 3(6) = 21.
  4. Using this method to solve the problem,  add 8 to 8 times 11 to get 96.

Which solution did you find? 40, or 96?

Or maybe you see the problem in a way different than the two mentioned above? What do you see? What is your interpretation?

For more of an explanation of the solutions to this math problem, watch this video: