This math question for 5th graders in the Chinese district of Shunqing is stumping adults around the world and It's going viral because no one can figure out how to solve it.
The problem translates as follows:
"If a ship had 26 sheep and 10 goats onboard, how old is the ship's captain?"
How is the amount of cargo a ship contains supposed to help you figure out how old the captain is?!
Some of the top-notch answers students came up with appeared in the Chinese media:
Some chose to make a joke of it.
“The captain is 36 years old. He is quite narcissistic, so the number of animals corresponds to his age,” one pupil wrote.
Others tried to use at least a little bit of logic.
“The captain should be at least 18 years old because a minor is not allowed by law to operate a vessel,” another student wrote.
Then there were those who got straight to the point:
“We cannot be sure of the captain’s age. The number of the sheep and goats is irrelevant to the captain’s age,” one said.
Also, the internet had a lot to say about it and it became a trending topic on Twitter.
However, one commenter on Weibo, a popular microblogging site in China, did come up with a solution:
"The total weight of 26 sheep and 10 goat is 7,700kg, based on the average weight of each animal," they wrote according to a BBC translation. "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."
After the test question went viral, the Shunqing Education Department released a statement saying that the question was meant to "examine... critical awareness and an ability to think independently".
If so, whether or not the math problem is solvable isn't relevant. The point is to encourage students to think creatively about possible ways to figure it out and come up with their own answers.