Correct or Right?


Take a look at the math riddle above.  Spend a little time trying to figure it out…spoiler alert…if you do not want an answer given then don’t scroll further until you are done.

I love working on riddles especially ones with numbers in them. So when this showed up on my Facebook timeline I jumped at it. It did not take me very long to find the answer.

My next step was to share it. What good is a riddle if you don’t share it? So I sent it to my kids and then to a group text with my family members. What happened next taught me some important lessons about life that I want to share with you.

My son and daughter responded almost at the same time with two different answers. My daughter said 40 while my son said 96. Well my son’s answer was the same as mine so I gave him the thumbs up. Then I asked my daughter for her logic. I discovered that her logic was just as sound as our logic.

Soon after answers began to come in from my family members. My sisters in law and my mother all said 40. My brothers said 96. I communicated with a few other friends. The men said 96, the women said 40.

Here was their reasoning.

For those who said 96:

The way the formula works is A+ (AxB) = the answer.

Try it. It works for each of the 3 answers given.

For those who said 40:

The way the formula works is add the answer from the previous formula to the numbers in the formula to get the answer.

Try it. It works for each of the answers given.

The problem is, it does not yield the same answer for the last question. But it did reveal some things.

Different does not mean deficient

When I first got my answer and heard my daughter’s answer, my initial reaction was to tell her how wrong she was. The natural response is “how did they get that.” There is something in us that causes us to look with weird glances internally at those who come to different conclusions from us while looking at the same data.

But as you can hopefully see from this simple example, even having different answers to the same problem, can come about from reasoned logic. Both ways of doing things have a credible reason for looking at it that way.

If there is anything I have seen in life from my experiences and from counseling individuals and couples is that we tend to think that when someone sees something differently from us that their way of looking at it may be defective. Books have been telling us that about Men and Women for years. “Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus,” is a popular one.

And even among brothers, sisters, children and parents, we are different. Our different views should not cause us to look down on each other. Different ways of looking at things may be just as valuable as our way of looking at it. 

Seek to understand the other side

What became apparent is in communicating about the different solutions is that the incredulous answer was “how did they get that?” Now to be honest, it was usually asked not in an affirming way but in disbelief. After all 40 and 96 are nowhere close to each other. But after taking some time to consider the logic of the other side, there was an opening to understanding.

The goal of communication should be understanding. Before we seek to be understood, we should seek to understand. And that is so difficult because we fight so much to be heard, be listened to and to be understood. In that way, we sometimes miss the other person’s viewpoint in the dialog.

What if we spent as much energy seeking to understand those who differ in perspective from us. Communicating understanding shows we care about the other person more than our point of view. And it breaks down the defenses that go up when there are differences of opinion. 

Related vs Connected

It seems to me that the differences come from the way we look at the equations. The women who came up with the answer of 40 saw each equation as connected to each other. They saw it all related to each other so each answer built on one another. The men who came up with 96 saw the equations as related but not connected. They saw an internal formula that carried over from each formula but each equation was able to stand on it’s own.

To be clear a few women got 96 (my wife being the only one I know) and a few men got 40 (my dad and one other guy). But maybe it shows the ways in general that we view life. Maybe women view things as connected while men view them as being related but not connected.

So when issues are happening, women may see them as one collective whole. Men may want to deal with each issue on it’s own merit. That was a generalization but it does have some basis in reality. A book “Men are life waffles. Women are like spaghetti,” highlights this.

A lot from this simple math riddle? Well that experience yesterday was insightful for me. So which answer is right? Here is my answer until the person who originally posted it answers.

96 is right.
40 is correct.




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