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The REAL Answer To The Viral Chinese Math Problem 'How Old Is The Captain?'


Media outlets around the world went crazy over a 5th grade math exam question in China. But they all missed the real story! The problem actually dates back to French researchers in 1979. In this video I present the real story to the viral "Chinese" captain's age question.

Update thanks to comment from Markus Schüt: the origin dates back to 1841 in a letter Flaubert wrote! See:

My blog post for this video:

Captain's age question
"If a ship had 26 sheep and 10 goats onboard, how old is the ship's captain?"

South China Morning Post

The Portal (Chinese)



Washington Post


Official response (Chinese).

Sherlock Holmes' deduction in The Hound of the Baskervilles

Novotná, Jarmila, and Bernard Sarrazy. "Model of a professor’s didactical action in mathematics education: professor’s variability and students’ algorithmic flexibility in solving arithmetical problems." The Fourth Congress of the European Society in Mathematics Education. 2005.

de Corte, Eric, Brian Greer, and Lieven Verschaffel, eds. Making Sense of Word Problems. CRC Press, 2000. Pages 3-5.

Reusser, Kurt. "Problem solving beyond the logic of things: Contextual effects on understanding and solving word problems." Instructional Science. 17.4 (1988): 309-338.

Benjamin Dickman Twitter and tweet

Benjamin Dickman answer on Math Educators Stack Exchange

Gene Wirchenko blog

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