Growing up, maths was never my favorite subject. But that hasn’t dissuaded me from trying my hand at solving simple equations that go viral from time to time. Most would agree when I say that the mathematical equations we solved in school didn’t necessarily have any application in our day-to-day life. However, you cannot deny the benefits of this mental exercise that not only helped sharpen our young minds but also kept us alert.

But those days of participating in mandatory math quizzes are long gone and I have noticed significant atrophy in my maths skills now as compared to the time when I was in high school. Although this fact does not affect me much, it did not sit well with people in Japan when they began noticing a steady decline in the accuracy rate of solving a particular question by different batches of students over the years.

A particular study revealed that just 60% of adults in Japan, who were between the ages of 20 and 30, were able to solve a specific maths question correctly. Now there’s no unique story or special meaning behind this mathematical equation apart from the fact that the success rate of solving the equation decreased significantly since it was first introduced in the 1980s.

According to Soran News 24, about 90% of people of the same age group were able to solve the question correctly at that time which is a stark contrast to the current 60%. Understandably, the results left everyone baffled as they couldn’t help but wonder about the reason for this gradual decrease in its accuracy. I guess that the best way to get this answer is by solving this particular problem yourself. Take a look at the equation below:

Now we probably wouldn’t have known about this mathematical crisis if it wasn’t for a YouTube channel called MindYourDecisions. The channel released a video back in 2016 which takes us through the process of solving it. But before we reveal the solution, why not try solving it? Go for it!

Did you get the answer? If it’s 3, then I’m sorry to inform you that it is wrong. But surely you would have gotten the right answer if you knew the logic behind it. You may have arrived at 3 after subtracting 3 from 9 and dividing the remainder by 3 and adding 1 to it. If you did this, then you must have forgotten the order of the mathematical operations called PEDMAS. Ring any bells? Well, this particular sum is an excellent example of why you need to follow the rule.

But this isn’t the mistake that most young adults in Japan, who got it wrong, made while answering the equation. Interesting, right? Out of 40% of these people, most ended up with 9, and if you google the problem or enter it in your calculator, the answer might leave you confused. Turns out both Google and 40% of members in the group were wrong, not because their intelligence had decreased but due to the way they read the equation.

The YouTube video explains how we see the problem as 3 divided by one-third but while entering it in our calculator, we type 3÷1/3. Because of this, the ÷ sign gets converted into a division slash and the equation becomes 3/1/3. Next, on solving 9-3/1/3+1 using PEDMAS we get 9. Click here if you wish to see all the steps involved. To solve it accurately, you need to use brackets to ensure that the one-third fraction remains in the accurate form while solving. “30 years or so ago, it was generally understood that the ‘1/3’ part of the problem wasn’t to be read as ‘one-third,’ but instead indicates that you need to divide,” reports Soran News.

This is how you need to construct the equation in order to get the accurate answer:

9-3÷1/3+1

9-3÷(1/3)+1

9-3×3+1

9-9+1

=1