Can You Answer this Impossible First-Grade Math Question?

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Someday our kids are going to bring us homework questions we can’t answer, but usually we expect that to happen around high school. Now a bunch of parents are utterly stymied by a math problem on a homework assignment meant for first-graders.

We’re all smart, very educated people around here, so let’s see how we do. Can you answer this math problem?

impossible math question

It’s been a long time since I was in first grade, but I cannot answer that math problem. And I’m very good at math! At least, I thought I was good at math. Now I am questioning everything. I’m especially questioning, “What the hell is the answer to this math problem?”

According to PopSugar, this problem was given out to first-grader in Singapore. This is one of those recognize-the-pattern problems that always feels like it should be immediately obvious, but this one is confounding well-educated adults across the internet. But somehow this was for first-graders?

A bunch of adults floated possible solutions over on the Singapore Hardware Zone, where the problem was originally posted. The one that seems the most likely is the most deceptively simple. The numbers in the circles indicate how many numbers with more than one digit that circle is touching.

math answer

Is that the answer the teacher was looking for? I don’t know, but it’s a correct answer, and that’s sure better than I was going to get.

I’d feel a lot less bad about my first grade math failure if I knew there was some sort of in-class context the kids were aware of. If, for example, the first-graders had been given examples of this kind of problem before, then it would probably be quite easy. If it was actually just slid across the table like, “What number pattern do you see here?” then, well, hats off to the little geniuses.

Do you think this math problem is too hard? Let us know in the comments.