My faith in science has been shattered. By science, I mean specifically math.

It seems everything I thought I knew has changed. I mean, aren’t math facts well … facts?

It started innocuously enough with a picture problem from my grandson. Finding values was easy. Finding the stated answer was something very different.

This one really bothers and baffles me. Let me explain.

The horse has a value of 10. The horseshoes have a value of four. The boots have a value of two. I think everyone in the world can figure that out.

Since there is only one boot in the question, the boot has a value of one. The horse remains 10 and since there is just one horseshoe, it becomes two. So the formula reduced to numbers is 1 plus 10 times two. Easy peasy. Answer is 22.

Nnnnt. According to the experts, the answer is 21 following the order of operands.

Hmmm. That’s a new term for me. I always thought I was pretty well versed in math, but I must have been absent when Sister Mary Mary covered that in grade school. I might have been cooking shrimp on the barbie on the ledge when Brother Flintstone reviewed it in high school. I might have been too busy counting resistor rings or cutting up a capacitor {as an aside, when told not to cut a capacitor, listen … it’s pretty messy} when Father Rubble drilled formulae into our heads.

They say the order of operands dates back to the 1500s, yet as late as the late 20th century — actually to today — I never heard the phrase. In fact, my math skills always led me to solve formula from left to right after gathering commonalities. So I solved the said problem as 1 plus 10 equals 11 times two, thus 22.

The order of operands says multiplication functions take precedence. Thus it is solved 10 times two equals 20 plus one equals 21.

I’m still not convinced, although apparently calculators and computers these days follow the order operands. Try it. That might explain some of the problem. We had to etch our numbers in stone back in my day and computers were science fiction.

I did reach out to a friend of mine, a classmate who was valedictorian and was actually an electrical engineer. I just gave him the formula — 1 + 10 x 2 = ? His response was, “Not a defined problem without specifying which operation occurs first.”

So, there you have it. Apparently math does follow specific rules … but apparently the rules have changed. New math says when evaluating arithmetic expressions, the order of operations is simplify all operations inside parentheses; perform all multiplications and divisions, working from left to right; then perform all additions and subtractions, working from left to right.

I got the left to right right. No wonder I have trouble balancing my checkbook!

**THOUGHT TO REMEMBER:** What if we took the time to listen to someone’s story.