5th-Grade Exam Question Leaves Internet Stumped

Education department says problem was meant to assess critical thinking
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 30, 2018 11:17 AM CST
Updated Feb 3, 2018 1:19 PM CST
She's probably more on the right track than we are.   (Getty Images/Tomwang112)

(Newser) – "If a ship had 26 sheep and 10 goats on board, how old is the ship's captain?" Stumped? So are fifth-grade students in China's Shunqing district of Nanchong, where the aforementioned question appeared on a math exam for the 11-year-olds. Some gave their best guesses, with one student impressively noting "the captain is at least 18 because he has to be an adult to drive the ship," per the BBC. Another stressed that "the number of the sheep and goats is irrelevant to the captain's age," per the South China Morning Post. But a third simply wrote, "I can't solve this." Plenty on social media site Weibo, where the question was shared, decided the same, though one user came up with what might be the correct answer.

Having calculated the weight of the cargo at 7,700 kilograms, or about 17,000 pounds, the user notes boaters in China are required to possess a license for at least five years before carrying loads over 5,000 kilograms. "The minimum age for getting a boat's license is 23, so he's at least 28." But the Shunqing Education Department says it didn't necessarily expect 11-year-olds to come up with that answer. "Some surveys show that primary school students in our country lack a sense of critical awareness in regard to mathematics," so the question was intended to "examine ... critical awareness and an ability to think independently," the department says, per the BBC. (It's not the first to throw a curveball question at students.)

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