This 3rd-Grade Math Problem Is Stumping Even The Smartest Adults

by Ileana Paules-Bronet
Ileana is the Senior Editor of Branded Content at Wild Sky Media. She grew up in upstate New York and Oregon and now lives in Queens, NY. Ileana graduated from Skidmore College with a degree in sociology. After graduating, she attended the Columbia Publishing Course in New York City, then worked as in marketing at Oxford University Press. Since transitioning to editorial, she has written for BuzzFeed, HuffPost, and Woman's World. She has also worked for local newspapers and magazines in upstate New York. In her free time, you can find Ileana watching Law & Order: SVU, eating ice cream, and spending time with her dog.

When I was young, I considered myself very good at school. I worked hard in class. I focused on my homework, and I pushed myself to get good grades.

Even though math wasn’t my favorite subject, there’s no question that I was decent at it.

It wasn’t until high school that I started losing my footing with math problems. Up until then, I’d always had no issue figuring out them out eventually.

Once I started getting into pre-calculus and calculus, however, I was completely lost. That being said, I still consider myself pretty good at basic math.

So when I saw that there was a third-grade math problem “stumping” the entire internet, I scoffed.

I assumed I’d easily be able to figure it out.

I was so wrong.

Check out the math problem below, and see if you can solve the third-grade math equation that the whole world is struggling with.

[H/T: Huffington Post]

math problem

Here is the notorious math problem.

It says, “Janell had 15 marbles. She lost some of them. How many does Janell have now?”

six marbles

If you’re thinking, “What?!” you’re not alone.

Most people who saw this question were completely baffled by it.

child homework

So let’s take a look at some of the other math problems on the homework sheet to see if they’re just as confusing.

Here’s the full page of third-grade math homework.

math homework

Even the third grader seems frustrated by how confusing this problem is — she wrote in a giant question mark instead of an answer.

The other questions are so simple and straightforward, which honestly makes this one all the more frustrating!

Let’s break this down logically to see if we can figure it out.


OK, so Janell starts with 15 marbles. No questions there.

child homework

The next part of the question says, “She lost some of them.”

This is where all the confusion comes from — how many is some?

correct answer

According to the responses on Reddit, the answer is way more complicated than a third grader would understand.

Heck, it’s way more complicated than most college graduates would understand.

some marbles

In the simplest terms, the answer is “less than 15.”

No, that’s not an insanely difficult answer, but it’s definitely not nearly as straightforward as the rest of the problems on the assignment.

answer math

According to one woman, the answer is even simpler: The teacher got distracted while writing the math problem.

Whether or not that’s true, we may never know, but that would certainly explain the issue.

math work

Were you able to figure out the “correct” answer to this math problem?

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