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Impossible Maths Question Baffles People Across The Globe After It Appears In Exam

Impossible Maths Question Baffles People Across The Globe After It Appears In Exam

Education officials later said the question hadn’t been a mistake, but was simply meant to highlight ‘critical awareness’

A maths question has baffled people across the world after being shared online, with students saying they were simply unable to solve it.

The question had been posed to students at an unnamed school in the Chinese district of Shunqing after it appeared on a recent fifth-grade level paper, intended for children aged around 11.

According to the BBC, the question read: "If a ship had 26 sheep and 10 goats onboard, how old is the ship's captain?"

Nope, I have absolutely no idea either.

Photos of the tricky question surfaced on Chinese social media - along with images of the students' attempts to answer it.


In an article, the South China Morning Post shared some of the best answers - which ranged from impressively creative to downright defeatist.

One student wrote: "The captain is at least 18 because he has to be an adult to drive the ship."

Logical, I like it.

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

Someone else, meanwhile, did what most of us would do and gave up - pretty sassily, too.

They wrote: "The captain's age is... I don't know. I can't solve this."

The BBC reports that education officials later said the question hadn't been a mistake, but was simply meant to highlight 'critical awareness'.

In a statement posted on 26 January, the Shunqing Education Department said the test had intended to examine 'an ability to think independently'.


"Some surveys show that primary school students in our country lack a sense of critical awareness in regard to mathematics," the statement said.

Many people online weren't convinced by the method, with one saying on Weibo: "This question makes no logical sense at all. Does the teacher even know the answer?"

Another joked: "If a school had 26 teachers, 10 of which weren't thinking, how old is the principal?"

Others defended the school, agreeing that it promoted critical thinking.

One said: "The whole point of it is to make the students think. It's done that."

Someone else commented: "This question forces children to explain their thinking and gives them space to be creative. We should have more questions like this."

One person even reckoned they had the answer, writing: "The total weight of 26 sheep and 10 goat is 7,700kg, based on the average weight of each animal.

"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."

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: Viral, World News, News, Education, China