The role of education is not to produce standardised spare parts... Each answer can reflect a different personality. A question that can have different answers is a good question.

# This 'impossible' maths question is leaving everyone confused

**Many of us familiar with the feeling that maths is just impossible.**

But surely a question meant for fifth graders, who are around the age of 11, should be doable – right?

Well, this question from a Chinese maths paper has left swathes of the internet bowing down and admitting defeat.

26 sheep, 10 goats on a ship: How old is the captain? Unsolvable math problem puzzles Chinese students https://t.co/32Wsb8dKF0pic.twitter.com/XmY5wDCYuw

— William L McGonagle (@UssLibertyy) January 29, 2018

According to the BBC, the question asks:

If a ship had 26 sheep and 10 goats onboard, how old is the ship's captain?

The *South China Morning Post* reported the creative answers that students were forced to come up with.

One desperate kid wrote:

The captain is 36 years old. He is quite narcissistic, so the number of animals corresponds to his age.

Yep – we live in a self-obsessed age of selfies, mirrors and ever-growing livestock collections.

This person reasoned:

The captain is 36, because 26+10 is 36 and the captain wanted them to add up to his age.

While another just wrote what we were all thinking:

The number of the sheep and goats is irrelevant to the captain’s age.

And one student simply gave up:

The captain's age is... I don't know. I can't solve this.

If someone has zero sheep and zero goats, what does that mean? Are they ageless? Shall we rewrite physics?

**Most people on the internet didn't fare much better. **

## Erm, what?! https://t.co/cuJ71fpBe9

— 🐾Wendy Clarkson-Leach🐾 (@nursewendynoo) January 31, 2018

Ridiculously difficult exam question has Chinese internet users scratching their heads over solution.

Students at a school in southwest China were asked the "unsolvable" question.#mathematics#maths#exams#China#Students

Any Answer ? 😂 pic.twitter.com/SwKxv47ZYj

— Shafiqullah Sayaad (@ShafiqullahSay2) January 30, 2018

Though some people gave the question a fair go.

"If a ship had 26 sheep and 10 goats onboard, how old is the ship's captain?"

"In China, if you're driving a ship that cargo you need to have possessed a boat license for five years. The minimum age for getting a boat's license is 23, so he's at least 28."https://t.co/RghK1AEuef

— Al Raposas (@a_raposas) January 30, 2018

And others commended the task.

We need more critical thinking tests like this here in america. https://t.co/eYZEpzClfs

— Vonathon (@Von_a_thon) January 31, 2018

You know what, I love this question. Teaching critical thought is something to be embraced. 'Unsolvable' exam question leaves Chinese students flummoxed - BBC News https://t.co/mgtdijWwHm

— Andrew Penfold (@PenfoldOfficial) January 31, 2018

**It turns out that the question actually ***was *unsolvable.

*was*unsolvable.

In a statement, Shunqing Education Department confirmed there was no answer.

**More: This child's homework question has stumped the internet**

**More: Can you pass this maths quiz without looking at a calculator?**