Can you spot what’s wrong with this kids’ work? Because a lot of adults sure can’t.

Many teachers and child psychologists will argue that when it comes to elementary school education, kids learning to read instructions and follow directions are as important as mastery of the subject material itself. Some might say that’s a soul-crushingly sad thing to force upon children, but most people would agree that children need to learn, to some extent, how to operate within a set of boundaries if they’re going to become productive, contributing members of society.

Under that philosophy, there’s a certain logical basis for when kids get penalized for arriving at the correct answer on their homework or tests, but failing to show their work after being told to do so in the directions. But Japanese Twitter user @Bussang_ was baffled when his child followed his math assignment’s instructions to the letter, performed the calculation accurately, and yet still didn’t get credit for having the right answer.

The problem in question asks the student what 12 times 25 is, and @Bussang_’s child dutifully wrote “300.” However, right underneath the problem, the teacher then wrote 式, the kanji character for shiki, meaning “mathematical formula,” indicating that writing the formula was a required part of solving the question satisfactorily.

“12 x 25 [= the correct answer]” seems like it does a pretty good job being a formula all by itself, but another Twitter user chimed in with his theory that since many elementary schools specifically teach their pupils that 4 x 25=100, perhaps the teacher wanted students to show their work by first breaking 12 x 25 down into 3 x 4 x 25, then repackage that as 3 x 100 before finally writing down 300 as the final answer.

That seems like an inefficiently convoluted way to solve the problem, but hey, if that’s what the instructions say to do, it’s on the kids if they don’t, right? Except if we look at the text above the problem, we can see the complete instructions, which are written in Japanese as 暗算でしましょう, or “Anzan de simashou.” That, in turn, translates as:

“Let’s do the calculations in our heads.”

In other words, the directions are specifically asking the students to perform the calculations mentally, or without writing them down.

If there’s a silver lining to this, it’s that the teacher doesn’t seem to have officially marked @Bussang_’s child’s answer as incorrect, since Japanese schoolteachers would generally indicate that by drawing an X over the answer or problem number. However, there’s no circle, used to indicate full credit in Japanese schools, either.

The previous question on the paper can’t be fully seen, but its multiple answer boxes suggest that it might have required students to document their thought process, so maybe the teacher got into a groove correcting papers and forgot to change gears for the mental calculation question. Still, this has to have been pretty frustrating, since @Bussang_’s child actually deserves full marks in both arithmetic and reading comprehension.

But hey, at least someone out there can relate.

Source: Jin
Featured image: Twitter/@@Bussang_

Follow Casey on Twitter, where he still remembers butting heads with his college statistics teacher.