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Mayukh Saha
Mayukh Saha
November 9, 2023 ·  3 min read

This Kid’s Math Question Has People Arguing. What’s the Right Answer?

The internet has managed to fuel curiosity unlike, perhaps, any other human invention to date. From brain teasers to optical puzzles, everything and anything is available at hand. The best place to find them is currently social media, where vibrant and real-time debates regarding the answers can take place. Moreover, there are people from everywhere, with all kinds of expertise, answering the questions. Today, we bring to you a math question that was originally designed for children. However, adults cannot seem to agree on what is the true answer.

The puzzle was originally posted in June 2023 on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. It was meant to be challenging for those who are still in school. However, it turned out to be even more interesting. What was supposed to be a fun math question for kids turned out to be a head-scratching mess.

The Math Question That Has Left The Internet In A Tizzy

The math question is related to time. X user @yawdmontweet, who hails from Jamaica, was the original poster. It read: What is the closest time to midnight? And it was followed by four options: A. 11:55 a.m.; B. 12:06 a.m.; C. 11:50 a.m.; D. 12.03 a.m. He captioned it by saying that the question hurt his head. Now, you might be wondering why this is difficult. So join the 1.4 million other viewers on this wild ride!

The math question that baffled the internet.
Image Credits: Twitter

The answer seems very obvious at first: Option D – 12:03 a.m. Most of the users even replied with that choice. After all, midnight is 12 a.m. So, of all the options, the one that is the least number of minutes away from 12:00 a.m. is 12:03 a.m. – only 3 minutes. However, this is based on a vital assumption: that time can be counted both forward and backward from the exact point of midnight, which is 12 a.m.

If you don’t understand, then here’s a bit more clarification. In real life, time only moves forward. So once you move past midnight, you cannot return to midnight from 12:03 a.m. Then, the only possible midnight becomes the approaching one, the midnight that will take place the next night! As such, the confusion arose from the wording of the question. Some believed that the question asked for the “closest time until” midnight. In which case, the correct answer would definitely be A. 11:55 a.m. since it is nearest the next possible midnight. However, the question asked for “closest time to” so the answer should be option D, still.

More Possible Methods And Mistakes

There is another possible perception yet! Some people cleverly reasoned that it is not just a simple math question, but a word question as well! They said that the answer is asking for the time that is, literally, “closest to” the position of the word “midnight” in the paper. In which case, it will again be option A.

Some others pointed out that people might be getting confused over the first two options. Midnight is 12:00 a.m., so any time that is 11 a.m. is closer to midday, which is 12:00 p.m., than midnight. Some others logically said that more information is needed, such as which midnight it is referring to, the previous one, or the approaching one.

As such, some viewers took the help of the best computer available freely at present: ChatGPT. The artificial intelligence promptly answered that it is option D, but we are not computers; we are humans who can look at a problem from as many perspectives as possible, and every solution can be correct simultaneously! Although some pointed out that trickiness like this can deter young minds, it is also a testament to our intellect to not always follow the obvious path.

So, which option do you think is the correct answer to the math question? Let us know in the comments below!   

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  1. Twitter