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## Is MEDUSA the New BODMAS?

I wrote this post with, and after much discussion with Adam Townsend. It also appeared on the Chalkdust Magazine blog.

Recently, Colin "IceCol" Beveridge blogged about something that's been irking him for a while: those annoying social media posts that tell you to work out a sum, such as \(3-3\times6+2\), and state that only $n$% of people will get it right (where \(n\) is quite small). Or as he calls it "fake maths".

This got me thinking about everyone's least favourite primary school acronym: BODMAS (sometimes known as BIDMAS, or PEMDAS if you're American). As I'm sure you've been trying to forget, BODMAS stands for "

**B**rackets, (to the power)**O**f,**D**ivision,**M**ultiplication,**A**ddition,**S**ubtraction" and tells you in which order the operations should be performed.Now, I agree that we all need to do operations in the same order (just imagine trying to explain your working out to someone who uses

*BADSOM*!) but BODMAS isn't the order mathematicians use. It's simply wrong. Take the sum \(4-3+1\) as an example. Anyone can tell you that the answer is 2. But BODMAS begs to differ: addition comes first, giving 0!The problem here is that in reality, we treat addition and subtraction as equally important, so sums involving just these two operations are calculated from left-to-right. This caveat is quite a lot more to remember on top of BODMAS, but there's actually no need: Doing all the subtractions before additions will always give you the same answer as going from left-to-right. The same applies to division and multiplication, but luckily these two are in the correct order already in BODMAS (but no luck if you're using PEMDAS).

So instead of BODMAS, we should be using

*BODMSA*. But that's unpronounceable, so instead we suggest that from now on you use**MEDUSA**. That's right,**MEDUSA**:**M**abano (*brackets*in Swahili)**E**xponentiation**D**ivision**U**kubuyabuyelela (*multiplication*in Zulu)**S**ubtraction**A**ddition

This is big news. MEDUSA vs BODMAS could be this year's pi vs tau... Although it's not actually the biggest issue when considering sums like \(3-3\times6+2\).

The real problem with \(3-3\times6+2\) is that it is written in a purposefully confusing and ambiguous order. Compare the following sums:

$$3-3\times6+2$$ $$3+2-3\times6$$ $$3+2-(3\times6)$$
In the latter two, it is much harder to make a mistake in the order of operations, because the correct order is much closer to normal left-to-right reading order, helping the reader to avoid common mistakes. Good mathematics is about good communication, not tricking people. This is why questions like this are "fake maths": real mathematicians would never ask them. If we take the time to write clearly, then I bet more than \(n\)% of people will be able get the correct answer.

### Similar Posts

Christmas Card 2016 | The Importance of Estimation Error | Christmas (2016) is Over | Video Game Surfaces |

### Comments

Comments in green were written by me. Comments in blue were not written by me.

**2016-12-20 09:21:56**

## Christmas Card 2016

Last week, I posted about the Christmas card I designed on the Chalkdust blog.

The card looks boring at first glance, but contains 12 puzzles. Converting the answers to base 3, writing them in the boxes on the front, then colouring the 1s green and 2s red will reveal a Christmassy picture.

If you want to try the card yourself, you can download this pdf. Alternatively, you can find the puzzles below and type the answers in the boxes. The answers will be automatically converted to base 3 and coloured...

# | Answer (base 10) | Answer (base 3) | ||||||||

1 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | |

2 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | |

3 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | |

4 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | |

5 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | |

6 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | |

7 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | |

8 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | |

9 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | |

10 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | |

11 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | |

12 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 |

- The square number larger than 1 whose square root is equal to the sum of its digits.
- The smallest square number whose factors add up to a different square number.
- The largest number that cannot be written in the form \(23n+17m\), where \(n\) and \(m\) are positive integers (or 0).
- Write down a three-digit number whose digits are decreasing. Write down the reverse of this number and find the difference. Add this difference to its reverse. What is the result?
- The number of numbers between 0 and 10,000,000 that do not contain the digits 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6.
- The lowest common multiple of 57 and 249.
- The sum of all the odd numbers between 0 and 66.
- One less than four times the 40th triangle number.
- The number of factors of the number \(2^{756}\)×\(3^{12}\).
- In a book with 13,204 pages, what do the page numbers of the middle two pages add up to?
- The number of off-diagonal elements in a 27×27 matrix.
- The largest number, \(k\), such that \(27k/(27+k)\) is an integer.

### Similar Posts

Christmas (2016) is Over | Christmas (2016) is Coming! | Christmas (2015) is Over | Christmas (2015) is Coming! |

### Comments

Comments in green were written by me. Comments in blue were not written by me.

**2016-12-20**

Dan Whitman

**2016-12-20**

Matthew

**2016-12-20**

Dan Whitman

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