Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox proved to be pretty good at statistics during a breakout sophomore season in the NBA. Now he’s using a fraction of his offseason to engage in a mathematical debate that has caused people to yell at each other on the internet for years.
Controversy erupted on Twitter again Wednesday, this time over the proper order of operations in a particular equation. Fox mounted an impassioned defense for his interpretation of the PEMDAS system, the father of Kings rookie Marvin Bagley III weighed in with an alternative response and teammate Bogdan Bogdanovic stepped in to referee.
“@Swipathefox vs. @Coachbagley,” Bogdanovic posted on his Instagram story. “Who’s right?”
The debate stemmed from a seemingly simple but somewhat notorious equation: 6/2(1+2). Using PEMDAS, an acronym for parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition and subtraction, Fox determined he first had to perform the operation inside the parentheses, adding 1 plus 2. He then divided 6 by 2 and followed that step by multiplying the two sums, 3 times 3, to arrive at his answer.
“Which gives you 9 & if you don’t think so ask your math teacher cause you probably got that wrong on your last test,” Fox wrote on Instagram.
Fox claims he’s a bit of a math whiz. Last week, when he unveiled his new signature shoe, the Nike Air Max 1 “Swipa,” photos showed mathematics equations on the insoles.
Fox proved he was pretty good with numbers while averaging 17.3 points, 7.3 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals for the Kings this season, but some thought his answer was incorrect. The clever and entertaining Kings social media team invited fans to offer their responses, posting a photo of Fox along with the equation.
“What is the answer?” the Kings asked.
The post generated more than 6,500 comments in the first 24 hours, including one from Marvin Bagley Jr., who simply replied: “1.”
Dozens of people replied to Bagley Jr., many explaining why he was mistaken, but Bagley Jr. stood by his response.
“No,” he said. “You still have 6/2(3). You absolutely have to settle ALL parentheses first. That gives you 6/6. Simple mathematics.”
Bagley Jr. believes the equation breaks down to 6 divided by the sum of 2 times 3 — 6 divided by 6 equals 1. That’s where opinions differ and it’s not so simple.
Fox later posted a series of Instagram story updates in which he argued emphatically that the answer was 9. He argued from day to night while playing video games at home in the afternoon and later while driving a Bentley at dusk.
“It’s nine,” Fox shouted, feigning frustration. “The answer is nine.”
Fox and Bagley Jr. got caught up in a debate that has raged for years. In fact, some theorize whoever created this equation intended all along for people to shout each other down on the internet.
Slate magazine published an 1,800-word essay on this subject in 2013 after this same equation went viral on Facebook. Slate reported that “even math teachers argue” the order of operations and the confusion involves a principle known as “implied multiplication by juxtaposition,” which has evidently been taught differently at times over the past century.
Slate explained why some reasonably believe the answer is 1 before the author concluded: “That answer would be incorrect on most U.S. standardized tests, but you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong.”