Internet Scratches Its Head Over 'Can of Worms' 3rd Grade Math Problem

From losing marks on a technicality to questionable experiments in science class, there's a reason why our school years pop up in our dreams long after we've left education.

Added to that, we all remember a problem that we really pondered over, and so it's proving with the current 3rd grade math question that has the internet up in arms.

Posted to the r/mildlyinfuriating forum by Redditor u/webguy96 on June 5, the post has received more than 7,000 comments from puzzled users trying to decipher the "poorly-worded" equation.

Alongside a drawing of three baby birds in a nest, the question reads: "Jared found these baby birds and needs to care for each of them. Each bird eats about four worms a day.

"In order to feed them all each day, about how many worms will Jared need to find?"

The possible answers to the multiple choice question are F.6, H.10, G.4 or J.20.

A survey by Mongoose in 2020 explored American parents' understanding of STEM subjects, along with how they planned to support their children through adult learning. Some 55 percent of moms and dads admitted to struggling with math at school, while four in 10 found science challenging.

Math and science were also the two subjects their children found the most difficult, with many parents fearing their lack of knowledge would cause their child to fall behind while remote schooling. Some 72 percent of parents surveyed intended to study STEM subjects alongside their kids so they could support their learning.

Despite being aimed at 8 to 9-year-olds, many users were stumped by the question, believing that some context was missing from the equation.

"The question also doesn't state how many days, so you are lacking information to correctly solve the problem," wrote pleasantlyexhausted.

"The photocopy burn lets you know nobody has ever bothered to revise poorly worded questions like this," said mirshe.

Some Redditors believed the problem was written this way to encourage the children's critical thinking skills, but that the correct answer wasn't there.

"See, I'm all for the concept that's trying to be taught with this kind of thing. Estimation is an extremely powerful tool," commented extordi.

"I think there's three birds, so 12 worms. Rounding down to 10 is probably what they want, but will also mean that there's underfed birds. Rounding up to 20 means you're getting almost twice as many worms as you need.

"A better version would have had 14 and 10 as answers, since they're 'equidistant' from 12."

Gary Lloyd, a maths teacher based in the U.K., agreed that the question is about estimation, but unlike many users suggested, said 20 is the right answer.

He explained: "20 is my estimation, as 10 is too low.

"Also, as the birds get bigger they'll need more worms."

Many users thought the question was a bit short-sighted, expressing concern for the hypothetical birds.

"The kid needs to call the local animal rescue," said abyssiphus. "Momma birds eat the worms then puke them into the babies mouths.

"I don't think this kid is ready for bird level motherhood."

WarrenMockles agreed, commenting: "Well, seeing as how the largest number there is 20, it doesn't look great for the birds."

While AccidentAnnual concluded: "This question is a can of worms."

Newsweek has reached out to u/webguy96 for comment.

Internet scratches its head over math problem
A stock photo of an exasperated mother and child with her head in her hands struggling with remote learning. Reddit users couldn't agree if the question was "poorly worded" or encouraged "critical thinking" skills. Inside Creative House/iStock/Getty Images Plus