'Cheryl's birthday' maths question goes beyond Singapore to stump the world

SINGAPORE - The question that baffled the world on Monday - when is Cheryl's birthday?

In a maths question that went viral on Monday, Cheryl was the mysterious girl who was teasing two boys, Albert and Bernard, who wanted to know her birthday. She gave them 10 possible dates, then told Albert the month, and Bernard the day.

With some rather scanty clues, the test-taker is asked to figure out Cheryl's birthday.

Dozens of newspapers and websites around the world - from Malaysia and Britain to Germany and the United States - carried the puzzling maths question that tests one's logical deduction skills.

The UK Metro asked: "Can you solve the mind-boggling maths problem that was set for 14-year-olds?", while popular digital media site Mashable said: "A math problem for 14-year-olds is stumping the world". It was the top-trending story on US site Buzzfeed.

British papers The Guardian, The Independent and The Daily Mail also published the story on their websites.

The Mail said: "Of course, perhaps the more important question is whether Cheryl deserves a birthday gift at all after putting us through all of this."

In Malaysia, the Malay Mail carried a lengthy online article that called it a "quirky question" that went viral.

Major newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post in the US also carried the story, and The New Yorker's cartoon on April 16 mocked the "manipulative little psychopath Cheryl".

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In today’s Daily Cartoon, Emily Flake takes on the viral math problem from Singapore: http://nyr.kr/1ELJ6Lb

Posted by The New Yorker Cartoons on Thursday, 16 April 2015

A few news sites, including the BBC and ABC News even had video explanations of how to solve the puzzle.

It all started over the weekend, when Singapore TV talk show presenter Kenneth Kong posted the question on Facebook, saying that it was a question for Primary 5 students. The post was shared more than 4,500 times.

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This question causes a debate with my wife .... and its a P5 question. #trickquestion

Posted by Kennethjianwen on Friday, 10 April 2015

It was sent to him by a friend whose Primary 5 niece had asked him for help with an assignment last week.

But it turned out to be a question leaked from a Singapore and Asian Schools Math Olympiad, and is meant for Secondary Three and Four students.

You can get the question and answer here.

Aside from discussing the problem, some netizens had issues with the way the question was phrased and criticised the English used. Humorous comments about Cheryl's coy behaviour also tickled netizens.

There was even a hashtag #cherylsbirthday created on Twitter.

chuimin@sph.com.sg