5th Grade Chinese Math Question Has Internet Baffled, Can You Figure It Out?


Think you’re good at math? Then take a look at this question for 5th grade Chinese students that has the internet baffled.

Here’s the translation in case you don’t speak Chinese.

“If a ship had 26 sheep and 10 goats on-board, how old is the ship’s captain?”

Pretty crazy, right?

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The BBC reported that this question was given to students at a school in the Chinese district of Shunqing. The question recently appeared on a 5th grade level paper that was intended for children around 11-years-old.

But as word got out about the test, the question, as well as the children’s answers, took the internet by storm.

So by now you’re probably wondering what the answer to the question is. Well, here it is.

There’s isn’t a right or wrong answer. The answer is whatever you think it is.

Do you think this question was acceptable for 5th graders?

“Education officials later said the question was not a mistake, but meant to highlight ‘critical awareness’.” The question is meant to get the students to think ‘outside the box,'” the BBC explained.

A statement from the Shunquing Education Department said the test was intended to “examine… critical awareness and an ability to think independently”.

“Some surveys show that primary school students in our country lack a sense of critical awareness in regard to mathematics,” the department continued.

The question seemed to accomplish what the education department intended.

One student wrote, “The captain is at least 18 because he has to be an adult to drive the ship.” Not a bad answer for an 11-year-old.

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Another guessed, “The captain is 36, because 26+10 is 36 and the captain wanted them to add up to his age,” Again, quite a creative answer.

However, one student was so frustrated with the question, they just gave up. The student wrote, “The captain’s age is… I don’t know. I can’t solve this.”

Yeah, that was my answer too.

But of course there is that one guy on the internet who has all the answers. One commenter on a Chinese micro-blogging platform wrote, “The total weight of 26 sheep and 10 goat is 7,700kg, based on the average weight of each animal. 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.”

Thanks for clearing that up!

So, if this question confuses you, don’t worry, you’re not alone. But the idea of getting kids to think critically is a good one, even if the methods are a little “outside the box.”

Please like and share this story on Facebook and Twitter and let us know what you think of this question.

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Steven is a former writer for The Western Journal and has written hundreds of stories for both Western Journal and Conservative Tribune. He is a follower of Jesus, husband to an amazing wife and father to two beautiful girls.
Steven is a former writer for the Western Journal and has written dozens of stories for both Western Journal and Conservative Tribune. Steven is a native of Louisiana but has transferred to a remote desert land often referred to as Arizona. He has a beautiful wife and two amazing daughters. You can often find him hiking the Arizona landscape or serving on the worship team at his church.
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B.S. Church Ministries with a specialization in Church Planting and Revitalization
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