A post has been going around Facebook called the “Viral Fruit Problem,” and it has garnered literally millions of comments. Even the media has gotten in on the fun reporting how the problem it presents has the Internet stymied. However, there is a solution to the problem.
As written, the problem shows several rows of fruit with addition or subtraction signs between them followed by a solution. The first row adds up three apples and gets 30. The second row adds up one apple and two bunches of bananas and gets 18. The third row subtracts one bunch of bananas from two halves of a coconut for a value of two. The final row adds up one-half of a coconut, an apple and a bunch of bananas and asks for the solution. Popular answers to the problem have been 14 and 16.
First, the top row suggest that one apple equals 10 because 30 divided by 3 is 10. This conclusion is generally not controversial. However, the second one is. The question arises over whether each bunch or each banana should be counted individually. Since each bunch in this equation has four bananas, it does not matter for this particular solution, but it will later. One position is that the bananas should be counted separately and each banana equals one. The other approach would be that a bunch equals four.
In the next line, the bunch also has four bananas. Again, here it does not matter if the entire bunch or the individual bananas are considered. It can be inferred that once again the bananas represent four, or one per banana, and that the coconut is two.
Things get tricky in the final equation. There is only half a coconut, and while there is a bunch of bananas, there are only three bananas in the bunch instead of four. It would seem that the coconut here has a value of one and the bunch of bananas a value of three. Along with the apple, this adds up to 14. Many other people agree that this is the correct answer although a few might argue that the two parts of the coconut are not actually equal in size, and the part in the final equation might be meant to represent three-fourths of a coconut.