I am such a masochist sometimes.

Every so often, there is some question or poll or graphic on Facebook (and I'm sure other social media sites and forums) where someone asks a simple algebra question. This question comes in many flavors, but the one that I saw most recently was:

7 4 + 3 x 0 + 1 = ?

The author is challenging what the average person knows. The correct answer is, of course, 4. So many people out there insist that it's 1. After all, anything times 0 is 0. I've even seen some people claim the answer is 7, but I suspect that's a matter of glossing over the details and mistaking the multiplication for addition.

Whenever I see one of these, I feel *compelled* to help out. I read the comments, which are full of kids (at least I hope they're kids) screaming at each and calling each other retarded for not knowing that their answer is correct. And it drives me crazy. It really drives me crazy that someone who got the wrong answer is calling someone a moron for coming up with the right answer. Like a fool, I try to explain order of operations, but I get shouted down as well. It doesn't bother me that someone goofed or is simply not that knowledgeable, but it does bother me when that person refuses to even listen to the reasons why 4 is the correct answer. It's willful ignorance at that point.

It also doesn't help that the standard calculator doesn't do order of operations. You have to have a "scientific" calculator. That annoys me too. I can see the purpose of the adding machine, but it just encourages bad math. Even the Windows calculator has a standard setting that ignores order of operations. I believe it's the default calculator, so the layperson probably doesn't even know that there is a more accurate setting (fun fact: The actuarial exams in the early 90s required the use of a calculator that looked similar to a scientific calculator but in fact did not use the order of operations eithermadness).

I think the next time I feel the need to step into one of these warzones, I will include directions on how to use the scientific mode of the Windows calculator. It's actually very difficult to disabuse someone of his wrong answer when he can just type in the formula and see for himself that the answer is clearly 1.

Sorry, I felt the need to rant. I figured that aside from a math forum, you guys could relate, even though you probably don't suffer my obsessive need to correct people on the internet.