20 Grade-School Math Questions So Hard You’ll Wonder How You Graduated
Seriously, who can do these?!
Unless you grew up to be an engineer, a banker, or an accountant, odds are that elementary and middle school math were the bane of your existence. You would study relentlessly for weeks for those silly standardized tests—and yet, come exam day, you’d still somehow have no idea what any of the equations were asking for. Trust us, we get it.
While logic might lead you to believe that your math skills have naturally gotten better as you’ve aged, the unfortunate reality is that, unless you’ve been solving algebra and geometry problems on a daily basis, the opposite is more likely the case.
Don’t believe us? Then put your number crunching wisdom to the test with these tricky math questions taken straight from grade school tests and homework assignments and see for yourself. And once you’ve come to the terms with the fact that math is hard, take advantage of these 13 Tips for a Sharper Brain.
Question: What is the number of the parking space covered by the car?
This tricky math problem went viral a few years back after it appeared on an entrance exam in Hong Kong… for six-year-olds. Supposedly the students had just 20 seconds to solve the problem!
Believe it or not, this “math” question actually requires no math whatsoever. If you flip the image upside down, you’ll see that what you’re dealing with is a simple number sequence.
Question: Replace the question mark in the above problem with the appropriate number.
This problem shouldn’t be too difficult to solve if you play a lot of sudoku.
All of the numbers in every row and column add up to 15! (Also, 6 is the only number not represented out of numbers 1 through 9.)
Question: Find the equivalent number.
This problem comes straight from a standardized test given in New York in 2014.
You’re forgiven if you don’t remember exactly how exponents work. In order to solve this problem, you simply need to subtract the exponents (4-2) and solve for 32, which expands into 3 x 3 and equals 9. And for more questions that will challenge your rudimentary knowledge, check out these 30 Questions You’d Need to Ace to Pass 6th Grade English.
Question: How many small dogs are signed up to compete in the dog show?
This question comes directly from a second grader’s math homework. Yikes.
Answer: 42.5 dogs.
In order to figure out how many small dogs are competing, you have to subtract 36 from 49 and then divide that answer, 13, by 2, to get 6.5 dogs, or the number of big dogs competing. But you’re not done yet! You then have to add 6.5 to 36 to get the number of small dogs competing, which is 42.5. Of course, it’s not actually possible for half a dog to compete in a dog show, but for the sake of this math problem let’s assume that it is.
Question: Find the area of the red triangle.
This question was used in China to identify gifted 5th graders. Supposedly, some of the smart students were able to solve this in less than one minute.
In order to solve this problem, you need to understand how the area of a parallelogram works. If you already know how the area of a parallelogram and the area of a triangle are related, then adding 79 and 10 and subsequently subtracting 72 and 8 to get 9 should make sense—but if you’re still confused, then check out this YouTube video for a more in-depth explanation.
Question: How tall is the table?
YouTuber MindYourDecisions adapted this mind-boggling math question from a similar one found on an elementary school student’s homework in China.
Answer: 150 cm.
Since one measurement includes the cat’s height and subtracts the turtle’s and the other does the opposite, you can essentially just act like the two animals aren’t there. Therefore, all you have to do is add the two measurements—170 cm and 130 cm—together and divided them by 2 to get the table’s height, 150 cm. And while you’re testing your smarts, check out these 30 Real Trivial Pursuit Questions You Need to Be a Genius to Answer Correctly.
Question: If the cost of a bat and a baseball combined is $1.10 and the bat costs 41.00 more than the ball, how much is the ball?
This problem, mathematically speaking, is very similar to one of the other ones on this list.
Think back to that problem about the dogs at the dog show and use the same logic to solve this problem. All you have to do is subtract $1.00 from $1.10 and then divide that answer, $0.10 by 2, to get your final answer, $0.05.
Question: When is Cheryl’s birthday?
If you’re having trouble reading that, see here:
“Albert and Bernard just became friends with Cheryl, and they want to know when her birthday is. Cheryl gives them a list of 10 possible dates.
May 15 May 16 May 19
June 17 June 18
July 14 July 16
August 14 August 15 August 17
Cheryl then tells Albert and Bernard separately the month and the day of her birthday respectively.
Albert: I don’t know when Cheryl’s birthday is, but I know that Bernard doesn’t not know too.
Bernard: At first I don’t know when Cheryl’s birthday is, but I know now.
Albert: Then I also know when Cheryl’s birthday is.
So when is Cheryl’s birthday?”
It’s unclear why Cheryl couldn’t just tell both Albert and Bernard the month and day she was born, but that’s irrelevant to solving this problem.
Answer: July 16.
Confused about how one could possibly find any answer to this question? Don’t worry, so was most of the world when this question, taken from a Singapore and Asian Schools Math Olympiad competition, went viral a few years ago. Thankfully, though, the New York Times explains step-by-step how to get to July 16, and you can read their detailed deduction here.
Question: Find the missing letter.
This one comes from a first grader’s homework.
Answer: The missing letter is J.
When you add together the values given for S, B, and G, the sum comes out to 40, and making the missing letter J (which has a value of 14) makes the other diagonal’s sum the same.
Question: Solve the equation.
This problem might look easy, but a surprising number of adults are unable to solve it correctly.
Start by solving the division part of the equation. In order to do that, in case you forgot, you have to flip the fraction and switch from division to multiplication, thus getting 3 x 3 = 9. Now you have 9 – 9 + 1, and from there you can simply work from left to right and get your final answer: 1.
Question: Where should a line be drawn to make the below equation accurate?
5 + 5 + 5 + 5 = 555.
Answer: A line should be drawn on a “+” sign.
When you draw a slanted line in the upper left quadrant of a “+,” it becomes the number 4 and the equation thusly becomes 5 + 545 + 5 = 555.
Question: Solve the unfinished equation.
Try to figure out what all of the equations have in common.
Answer: 4 = 256.
The formula used in each equation is 4x = Y. So, 41 = 4, 42 = 16, 43 = 64, and 44 = 256.
Question: How many triangles are in the image above?
When Best Life first wrote about this deceiving question, we had to ask a mathematician to explain the answer!
Some people get stumped by the triangles hiding inside of the triangles and others forget to include the giant triangle housing all of the others. Either way, very few individuals—even math teachers—have been able to find the correct answer to this problem. And for more questions that will put your former education to the test, check out these 30 Questions You’d Need to Ace to Pass 6th Grade Geography.
Question: Add 8.563 and 4.8292.
Adding two decimals together is easier than it looks.
Don’t let the fact that 8.563 has fewer numberrs than 4.8292 trip you up. All you have to do is add a 0 to the end of 8.563 and then add like you normally would.
Question: There is a patch of lily pads on a lake. Every day, the patch doubles in size…
… If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of the lake?
Answer: 47 days.
Most people automatically assume that half of the lake would be covered in half the time, but this assumption is wrong. Since the patch of pads doubles in size every day, the lake would be half covered just one day before it was covered entirely.
Question: How many feet are in a mile?
This elementary school-level problem is a little less problem solving and a little more memorization.
This was one of the questions featured on the popular show Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?
Question: What value of “x” makes the equation below true?
-15 + (-5x) = 0
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the answer was 3. However, since the number alongside x is negative, we need x to be negative as well in order to get to 0. Therefore, x has to be -3.
Question: What is 1.92 divided by 3?
You might need to ask your kids for help on this one.
In order to solve this seemingly simple problem, you need to remove the decimal from 1.92 and act like it isn’t there. Once you’ve divided 192 by 3 to get 64, you can put the decimal place back where it belongs and get your final answer of 0.64.
Question: Solve the math equation above.
Don’t forget about PEMDAS!
Using PEMDAS (an acronym laying out the order in which you solve it: “parenthesis, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction”), you would first solve the addition inside of the parentheses (1 + 2 = 3), and from there finish the equation as it’s written from left to right.
Question: How many zombies are there?
Finding the answer to this final question will require using fractions.
Since we know that there are two zombies for every three humans and that 2 + 3 = 5, we can divide 85 by 5 to figure out that in total, there are 17 groups of humans and zombies. From there, we can then multiply 17 by 2 and 3 and learn that there are 34 zombies and 51 humans respectively. Not too bad, right? And if that wasn’t enough work for your brain, then keep going with these 15 Brain Games That Will Make You a Smarter Person.
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