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Number Crunching

Other than the birth of my children, the achievement of which I am most proud is having obtained an A at Maths GCSE. I’m pleased to say that my Maths teacher almost needed smelling salts when the results were pinned to the board, having told me I was a hopeless case for several years. (I have a stubborn streak, and schadenfreude is one of my many sins).

In a lot of ways she was right – my brain just doesn’t seem to be wired to understand abstract concepts. Addition, substraction, multiplication & division are no problem – can do the numbers game on Countdown/les chiffres et les lettres, better than the Grouch, who did not one, but three maths A-levels. Spatial awareness is fine -as illustrated by my having to show the removal men how to get my now defunct and crushed fridge into the house via a doorway, rather than horizontally through the window, and have lost count of the number of passengers holding their breath and adopting the brace position whilst I manoever my somewhat wider than standard car through narrow medieval alleyways.

But try and explain calculus/differentiation or triangles to me and a glazed expression of utter confusion will beset my features.

The reason for the above confession is that my daughter’s homework has me stumped. Luckily, once I’d translated it from French to English the Grouch was able to explain how to work out the area of a small square inside a larger one, given only that the large square was 7cm wider (& taller, I’m not that THAT thick) than the smaller and that the area of the large square minus that of the small square is 189cm2.

Anyway, the point of the post is not that I am NOT a  ‘mathos’, but that I had blithely assumed that the answer would be the same both here and in UK, maths & science being the universal language, so here’s the question :


Given that there were no brackets present I blithely assumed the answer to be 55.

Apparently not.  In France multiplication takes precedence over the order in which the calculation is written, making the answer 27.

Go figure!

PS Answers plus methodology welcome in comments!


5 Responses

  1. Sorry to disillusion you but multiplication takes precedence everywhere.

    Think about it: calculators are the same the world over.

    There is no French caclulator. Try any calculator you like and you’ll get 27. THAT IS if it lets you enter the entire expression.

  2. told you am not a maths head!
    I seem to remember being taught to do ‘sums’ in order written unless bracketed, but then again our primary school taught in something called sets, which i never ever got the hang of.

  3. BOMDAS. A very useful acronym I was taught for the order of events.

    Amazing that I’ve remembered after all these years. I’ve no idea why it should be that order, I just do as I’m told.

  4. The B should be Brackets. I don’t know where the By came from….

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