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This 'Unsolvable' Math Problem Given to Chinese Fifth-Graders 

"If a ship has 26 sheep and 10 goats on board, how old is the ship's captain?"

This question was given to fifth grader to students at Nanchong Shunqing Primary School in south-west China and it went viral on the internet.

Different variation of answers were given.

"The captain should be at least 18 years old because a minor is not allowed by law to operate a vessel." 

"We cannot be sure of the captain's age"  

"The number of the sheep and goats is irrelevant to the captain's age."

"The captain is 36 years old."  

"He is quite narcissistic, so the number of animals corresponds to his age."

Some students tried to manipulate the numbers given to find the age.

One particular answer caught most people's attention.

"The total weight of 26 sheep and 10 goat is 7,700 kilograms, based on the average weight of each animal." 

"In China, if you're driving a ship that has more than 5,000 kilograms of cargo you need to have possessed a boat licence for five years. The minimum age for getting a boat's licence is 23, so he's at least 28."

In actual fact, this question is a simplified question that was asked more than 200 years ago.


The answer to this question is

"There is not enough information to answer the question."

Nanchong Shunqing Primary school explained that the exam was to test students critical awareness, capacity to ask questions, and their ability to think independently of mathematical problems.

We believe that students should be bounded by the materials given in the classroom. Students should be given the opportunity to learn to make reasoned judgments that are logical and well-thought out. They should not simply accept all arguments and conclusions they are exposed to, but rather have an attitude involving questioning such arguments and conclusions.

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