Math, is it just for the cool kids?



“If a baseball and bat cost $110, and the bat costs $100 more than the ball, how much does the ball cost?”




got an answer?



….according to new research reported in tomorrow’s issue of the journal Science, the $10 answer indicates that you are an intuitive thinker, and the $5 answer indicates that you solve problems analytically, rather than following your gut instinct.



Bat: $105

Ball: $5



Neat! Makes sense, the gut says “hey, 100+10 = 110″ but the analytical brain says “well, yes, but 100 is only 90 more than 10 so….must not be that”

The part of the study that was interesting to me, was the correlation they found.

Psychologists William Gervais and Ara Norenzayan, of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, predicted that people who were more analytic in thinking would tend not to believe in religion, whereas people who approach problems more intuitively would tend to be believers. Their study confirmed the hypothesis and the findings illuminate the mysterious cognitive process by which we reach decisions about our beliefs.


Not surprising I’d say, but I found this pretty neat. How’d you do?


You can find me on twitter, @DrDavidBurger

I recruit in Kansas City,

FAITH: Jesus is not the answer to this question.
FAITH & POLITICS: Arizona State Sen. Sylvia Allen would like a bill requiring mandatory church attendance.
Also, Lizard people.
Is this a thing now?
About doctorburger
  • ‘Tis Himself

    I’m intuitive* and I’m an atheist. I guess I buck the tendency.

    *I first thought $100 and then thought, wait, that’s only $90 more than $10, so…um…let’s see…counts on fingers…um, yes, getting there…takes off shoes and socks…this little piggy went to…today is Friday…law of cosines…e to the x…glances at calendar to see the phase of the Moon…Red Sox are playing the White Sox tonight…yes, the answer is ball costs $5 and bat costs $105.

  • salo

    I got it correct. My line of thinking went like this: “Okay, 100+10 is the intuitive choice, so let’s apply both criteria to see if it holds…OK it doesn’t hold, time to do some algebra.”

  • Bill

    I had reason to believe that I’d be given the answer shortly. 8-)

  • justsomeguy

    My first instinct was $10.

    My second instinct was to check that answer to see if it was right.

    My third instinct was to apply some trial-and-error to figure out the correct answer (and also to determine if there *was* a correct answer, and that this wasn’t some sort of trick question).

    …. so if my intuition tells me not to trust my intuition and instead think things through, what should I do? What does that make me?

  • neatospiderplant

    I got $10. But in my defense, I read the question wrong. I thought it said “If a BASEBALL BAT costS $110, and the bat costs $100 more than the ball, how much does the ball cost?”

    It wasn’t until I read the explanation that I realized I had read it wrong.


    • neatospiderplant

      I wonder if reading the word wrong shows a tendency of intuitive thinking since I went with the first thing I read.

      Now I wonder if realizing the above shows a tendency of analytical thinking since I seem to be analyzing how I can know if I’m intuitive or analytical.

      I think one thing I can be certain of is that I need more coffee!

  • fastlane

    I got the answer right, but I can do multi-variable algebra like this pretty easily.

    ….according to new research reported in tomorrow’s issue of the journal Science, the $10 answer indicates that you are an intuitive thinker, and the $5 answer indicates that you solve problems analytically, rather than following your gut instinct.

    More importantly, those who got the answer of $5 are correct…..

  • Michaelyn

    I made the equation x+(100+x) = 110 in my head, then solved. That’s what teaching Math 101 does to you.

    • Stan Brooks

      I got it wrong at first blush, then used the algebra I still practice from time to time, and viola. I am also a recovering believer (long time away from the xtians, but sat in a Tibetan buddhist group for a few years before finally calling bullshit on that set of idiocies.).

  • sithrazer

    the first answer that came to my mind was $10, then I thought ‘Does that price include sales tax?’

    • Winterwind

      What does your answer say about you?

      Intuitive thinker: $10

      Analytical thinker: $5

      Economical thinker: Is this before or after taxes have been applied? What are the prices like at neighbouring stores?

      Antisocial thinker: I’m going to take the bat and smash the salesperson over the head with it. Hehehe.

      Poetical thinker: O thou gleaming bat of wood
      Nestled in thrifty store
      I’d fondle thee if I but could
      And hit home runs galore

      My mum: What?! $105 for a bat?! Forget it. It’s just going sit in the garage gathering dust like the tennis racquets. How long are you going to play baseball for, anyway? You’ll just give it up in a few weeks. Remember the cello!

      Me: Baseball bat? Eeew, sports. American sports. No thanks. I’ll buy a book instead.

  • Grimalkin

    I got $5/$105, but I don’t know if it’s an entirely fair way to judge if someone is naturally intuitive. I’ve seen these kinds of attempts to trip people up with math so many times (I think I’ve seen this particular one before, actually) that I could probably say that I intuitively know that my intuition is wrong.

    Does that make me a double atheist or a half atheist?

    • ash

      I call bullshit. It’s a dweeby sneer. If you saw this in a sporting goods store, the baseball would be 10 bucks. The statement doesn’t warrent analysis

  • Cynthia

    I got it, after I read thru and applied a little thought. But my first jump was $10, which I analyzed and decided couldn’t be correct. So I figured out the $5 answer.

    This process was remarkably similar to becoming an atheist, BTW. I jumped to a conclusion that I realized was wrong after I thought it thru. (It just took longer to analyze the religion question.) Maybe that’s why it was so easy to check my answer this time and see I missed something. Because it worked out really well for me in the religion area.

    So, maybe a truer conclusion would be that atheists are people who examine an answer and look for reasons to support or disprove that answer. It’s not a matter of intuition or analysis, it’s a matter of thinking it thru. Of not accepting the first answer that your brain jumps to. Of looking for evidence in both directions to arrive at a solid conclusion.

    That’s what makes people atheists. The willingness to look beyond the expected/taught to find what’s really true.

  • ohioobserver

    Simultaneous equations (but then I o this for a living).

  • ohioobserver

    Sorry –”I do this…” Only have the use of one hand right now…

  • Robert B.

    “Analytical” and “intuitive” thinkers? Please. I’m very good at math, and even among good mathematicians my style is considered analytical, and I’ve seen this trick before, and I still had to squint and grunt for a couple seconds before I could say the right answer. It’s a deceptive question, that’s all – it’s written so as to make you guess the wrong answer. Then either you’ve been trained to check your work and prove your conclusions, and have a chance to get it right, or you haven’t and you don’t.

    Referring to the result of inadequate math training as “intuitive thinking,” as though it were some inherent property of the person, is no more than victim-blaming. I sincerely hope that the paper is being misrepresented, and Science isn’t actually printing sensationalist nonsense like this.

    As for the correlation with religion, all it says (if we can trust it at all, which I’m not inclined to) is that religion is correlated with poor education. We knew that already.

    • ash

      Point and match! The conclusion at best is that mathematically educated people tend to be less religious

  • MarkNS

    #6 fastlane

    More importantly, those who got the answer of $5 are correct……

    Exactly. I think analytical thinkers are more likely to be concerned with getting the right answer too. That’s why we’re more likely to be atheists.

  • NathanDST

    My wife the believer solved it faster than I did.

    The hypothesis needs more examination.

  • bad Jim

    I actually have a math degree, but worked as an engineer. I guessed it was 100 and 10, saw that it was wrong, and shrugged. Close enough. Don’t sweat the petty things, and don’t pet the sweaty things.

  • alanuk

    The correct answer is that the ball costs $10

    The bat therefore costs $110

    If you buy the bat, the ball is thrown in free [offer only available instore - terms and conditions apply].

    Is everybody happy now?

  • sumdum

    I’ve known this puzzle before so it’s not new to me and I already know it’s a trap. But I did get it right the first time I heard it, probably cause I checked my answer before deciding to go with it.

  • Anteprepro

    What I thought was the far more interesting aspect of that study was that priming participants with words/images related to rationality increased “analytic thinking” as well as decreasing self-assessment of religiosity. That is far more interesting than a simple correlation. Wish I could confirm whether or not the “analytic thinking” was tested entirely with trick math questions, though.

    Nugget of Sophisticated Theology from the article:

    Professor and Chairman Terrence Reynolds of the Department of Theology at Georgetown University finds it plausible that analytic thinking could make religious belief more difficult. “If one assumes that all rationality is tied to what we know directly through the five senses, that limits our understanding of meaning questions. Religion tends to focus on questions of meaning and value, which may not be available through analytic verification processes… by definition God is a being that transcends the senses.”

    “Answering questions correctly with an accurate methodology is so myopic. You mere mortals can’t find Morals and Values and Jebus that way, because *mumble*mumble* Can’t you see that Jesus can’t be seen? That Jesus transcends your mere Earth Logic? Truly, going with your gut is an equally valid Way of Knowing The Truth.”
    And the psychologists just fucking nod in agreement! Not even going to bother mentioning that “intuitive” means recklessly jumping to erroneous conclusions within the confines of the study. Guess it would be too rude to not reassure the people who failed the test that they are different kind of “correct” (Full disclosure: I got the question wrong/answered it “intuitively”).

    Also, Robert B: +1

  • Steve

    I was wondering why a bat costs $105 and a ball only $5 – must be a cheap and crappy ball

  • sumdum

    Just asked my brother the believer, and he gave the $10 answer.

  • crayzz

    I think this study leaves out laziness as a possibility. I got 10$, but I didn’t actually read the question. I just saw 110$, baseball is 100 less.

    On a side note, this is old news. Like 10-15 years old. Hows is this just making it into Science now?

  • tracy

    So if I got it wrong, does that mean I have to go back to church?

    I don’t wanna.

  • ischemgeek

    First instinct was 100, to which I almost immediately thought, “This is obviously wrong because it breaks the condition that cost of the bat = cost of ball + 100. Algebra time! 2x + 100 = 110, x = 5.”

  • ibelieveindog

    My immediate thought was $5, then I thought, wait, you suck at math, work it out in your head. So I did, and came up with $10. Then I tried again, because I really really suck at math, and got myself stuck so I scrolled down.

    I don’t know if it means anything other than that I have math fear and am a pretty good guesser.

  • Jacindak Crutsingerz

    In this grand scheme of things you actually get an A for hard work. Exactly where you lost us ended up being on all the specifics. You know, they say, details make or break the argument.. And that couldn’t be more accurate in this article. Having said that, permit me say to you what did work. Your authoring is definitely incredibly convincing and this is probably why I am taking the effort in order to comment. I do not make it a regular habit of doing that. Next, although I can certainly see a leaps in reason you come up with, I am definitely not sure of just how you seem to unite your ideas which make the final result. For the moment I shall yield to your position however trust in the future you connect the facts better.