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Solve ? where 5 - 1 x 0 + 3 / 3 = ?

The generally accepted answer (6) is not so generally accepted. Some would rather calculate left to right and answer 1? Others (perhaps accidentally) would use some other order of operations and arrive at another number? Still others would be confused about some vague memory about some rule about zeros.

I posted this question on a site and heard things like “rules” and “philosophy doesn't even enter into it”. On "less friendly" sites with similar posts, asking similar math questions, you'd find people that ridicule others who oppose their approach. And I guess you could argue that some of them are "correct". Supposedly it has been at least 6500 years since the Sumerians, and there is evidence that they were using multiplication for counting things. But I think for accuracy sake philosophy most certainly does enter into it – it enters into every thing actually since philosophy means only love of wisdom - but that is language and we are on about math. Mathematics is something most of us learn at a very early age and so we are most adament about what we know of it. But it is really meaningless without a relation.

For example what if 5 in the equation relates to the number of forests you have? What if 1 is a number of 3 tree docks that you've buit & zero the number of docks that floated away? The first 3 may be your number of boards and the second 3 could represent the number of cleats installed... How would you solve for the “?” if the answer wanted was the number of displaced squirrels? I assure you some people would provide an answer and be prepared to argue over its correctness. But what if one guest prefers to swim instead? You might say the equation is then erroneous – even before the swimming was involved.

There are people today using math to calculate quantas and the number of universes that exist – and the word universe implies one at its root! Does 6500+ year-old-math still work at that level? Are we right about what we know? Can you add and subtract infinities? I'd like to leave earth one day. Who here thinks that is possible? Lao Tsu taught (and hopefully forgives me for summarizing) that everything is one. So who is to say. All I know is we need to consider details more than we do – when it matters. But maybe it never matters.

Personally on some other day I'd have said the answer was 6 - I guess. But one works. In fact pretty much any answer could be explained.



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