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Source:Xinhua Published: 2013-1-22 22:23:01

A so-called mathematics question written for primary school students became the target of speculation among teachers and parents alike recently. The problem asks students to distinguish between extraterrestrials and earthlings, prompting some to joke that the author of the question must be from outer space.

The question gives four drawings of "extraterrestrials" in its first row and four images of earthbound beings in its second row. Students are asked to identify which of the five figures in the third row are aliens. All creatures depicted are imaginary, and none from the first two rows are repeated in the third row.

Though the question is for second graders, many parents said they had no idea how to approach the problem. They said such a question is beyond their abilities, and that the question writer is not a common person, the Xinhua News Agency reported Monday.

Xinhua asked 11 math teachers to tackle the problem, five of whom answered "correctly." Three said that the problem must be a joke, and the majority agreed that there is no way to "solve" it.

Most teachers told their students not to waste their time trying to find an answer, while others said the question could foster students' abilities to make observations and broaden their minds.

Zhang Xinwei, an expert in mathematics for primary school students said the question promotes innovation but that it is too removed from daily life. A question should be designed based on students' lives and practice, Zhang said.

Xinhua

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