8=56; What does 3=? Answer.


There is a puzzle plaguing the very fabric of sanity on Facebook and the rest of social media. The debate over the answer rages on. For those here only looking for the answer, scroll down below the quote box. If you want to try to solve it first, stop reading now.

Solve if you are Genius!

3= ?

The answer is 3. If your timelines or feeds are like mine you have no doubt seen this puzzle. Another form of this quiz adds “9=72” in the list of statements and replaces the cartoon Einstein with Calvin from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. Responses range from potential answers of 3, 6, 9, 14 and 42 (referring to The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy) to long debates and explanations of how they arrived at their answer. Most people agree on 6. An Internet search has yet to turn up the source of the problem. Apparently one iteration of this puzzle image has over 25,000 retweets on Twitter and over 16 million Twitpic views. It is a defining question of our generation!


As I stated above, the answer is 3. The reason is because the preceding statements are false statements to make you think there is a pattern to mislead you. 9 never equals 72, 8 never equals 56, and so on. 3 never equals anything other than 3. The problem doesn’t set up a premise by saying “If these statements are true then what does 3 equal?” It just presents you with incorrect answers and in an effort to solve the problem we look for a pattern. It’s similar to the kid’s word joke that leads you to the wrong answer so everyone can laugh at you.

Spell mop……
Spell hop…….
Spell pop…….
What do you do at a green light……..

Raise your hand if reading that you thought “stop” when of course the answer is “go”. It’s the same with the math problem, you are expecting to follow the pattern instead of paying attention to what you are being asked. It’s misdirection, magicians rely on it. Neil Strauss, author of The Game, demonstrates this idea using 3 coins.

Looking over the discussions, responses, and reasoning going on in these threads to try to make the answer be anything other than 3 and defending their own rationalizations, I realized it was sort of a mirror to the way we think. Even when presented with the logical answer we many times will ignore the logic, facts, and truths and argue the incorrect point we believe. We see this all the time. It reminds me of pretty much every political argument that has ever taken place. Even when presented with facts that counter their reality people will emotionally cling to the false belief or point and argue it until they are hoarse. It is something we all have done at one time or another.

Mitt Romney’s recent presidential campaign was famously guilty of this.

Mitt Romney’s campaign said on Tuesday that its ads attacking President Obama’s waiver policy on welfare have been its most effective to date. And while the spots have been roundly criticized as lacking any factual basis, the campaign said it didn’t really care.

“We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said at a panel organized by ABC News.

This is a different standard than the one Romney himself has held up for the election-season ad wars. Reacting to attacks by a pro-Obama super PAC, Romney recently told a radio station that “in the past, when people pointed out that something was inaccurate, why, campaigns pulled the ad.” huffingtonpost.com Mitt Romney Campaign: We Will Not ‘Be Dictated By Fact-Checkers’

The point is, sometimes we need to take a step back, assess the situation and question what it is we are arguing and be open to the possibility that might be incorrect.

For example, this whole post could be me doing exactly what I observed others doing in defense of their answers. I could be incorrect about the answer being 3 but I’m not.

Keep calm I'm a genius

Because I’m genius.


Jaylon Carter
Jaylon Carter is a blogger, social media marketing consultant, former Congressional Campaign Media & Communications Director, and a Hip Hop artist who performs under the stage name Timid (@timidmc). He also runs NetBuzzDigest.com, a subscription newsletter informing parents of current happenings on the Internet.

30 Responses

  1. Diana M says:

    The answer is 6

    8 (x 7) =56
    7 (x 6)=42
    6 (x 5)=30
    5 (x 4) =20

    3 (x 3) = 9 is the answer!

    Though one could argue that the answer could be 6
    3 (x 2)= 6 If one were to argue that the next logical starting number after 5 should have been 4 in which case then 4 (x 3)= 12 is missing and then 3 (x 2) = 6 would follow as the next logical step in the sequence

    But since no blank line is shown, I would lean more towards the correct answer being 9


  2. Diana M says:

    Oops. Top line should say
    Correct answer is 9

  3. Jaylon Carter Jaylon Carter
    Twitter: IndiePundit

    Thanks for the reply. Diana you are making an assumption to fit a misleading pattern. The problem sets up false statements to confuse you. It doesn’t say 8 (x what) =56 it just says 8 = 56. That is a false statement to send you down the path that you are on so that you don’t see that 3 = 3.

  4. Navigator says:

    “Has ‘genius’ been redefined?”

    As demonstrated here and by the comments we’re left to figure out what the originator intended. Analytics might wonder where is 4=?. Perhaps what we have here really is 4*3=12 with the 4 being unstated, so 3 = 12. Kindergartners will say two wrongs, or in this case 4 wrongs, do not make a right. We all know 8 does not equal 56 and 7 does not equal 42. So of course 3 = 3. Or perhaps majority rules even to the point of determining what the rules actually are, so then the answer from the stream looks to be 6. Yet, if majority is the answer am left to ponder “Has ‘genius’ been redefined?”

    • Jaylon Carter Jaylon Carter
      Twitter: IndiePundit

      I think in both the usage of “genius” in my response and the original challenge is tongue-in-cheek. I even left that door open saying that I possibly could be guilty of defending an incorrect premise but I don’t think so. The wording doesn’t say “what if” or “let”s say”. In my view, it presents several incorrect statements attempting to mislead the challenger. The “genius” will recognize this as the case and ignore them.

  5. seriously says:

    3 is the most stupidest of all the possible answers…yes, most stupidest. There are multiple answers and that is the answer. It would not be logical to assume there are misstatements in a quiz. 8=56 etc cannot be false in the context of asking a question. If there is an error in the question figuring the correct answer could only be random. 3 is the childish silly answer. Any answer can be correct, even “undefined” or “wheels on a tricycle”

  6. Boyan says:

    Simplest is: x=x*x-x

    When you assume ‘what if 8=56’ etc.

    The answer is 6 also when you visualize numbers so that the number on right is divided by the number under it on left, e.g. 56/7.

    So, you get this:


    And proof is: x=x*(x-1)/(x-1)

    E.g. 6=30/5 or 6=6*5/5

    Meaning x=x


    • Jaylon Carter Jaylon Carter
      Twitter: IndiePundit

      That’s my point Boyan. It doesn’t say “assume that” or “what if” that’s why it’s a riddle because people will automatically make the false assumption. Thanks for your comment.

  7. taksh says:

    3=6 is the and because 8=56-14=7=42-12=30………..so3=6

  8. Dennis B. says:

    x(x-1) applies to all lines.
    9*9-9 = 72
    8*8-8 = 56
    7*7-7 = 42
    6*6-6 = 30
    5*5-5 = 20
    3*3-3 = 6

  9. 山形ジロー says:








  10. 山形ジロー says:





    9=72 9×8=72・・・9:72
    8=56 8×7=56・・・8:56
    7=42 7×6=42・・・7:42
    6=30 6×5=30・・・6:30
    5=20 5×4=20・・・5:20
    3=?  【4×3=12・・3:72・・12+60=72】


  11. Brad Smith says:

    I’m simple I guess I think the answer is fifteen because if you multiply each number by the one underneath it is how I see it

  12. Brad Smith says:

    I’m simple I guess I think the answer is twelve because if you multiply each number by the one underneath it is how I see it

  13. Frank Z. says:

    To the author: thank you for this. Unfortunately, you will come to realize, as I have, that the majority of people are not very smart. I don’t mean that in a bad way, they aren’t useless or completely stupid. It is just disappointing to see the great lengths at which someone will defend a baseless opinion or assumption. Simple examples like this are one reason why I no longer believe in democracy.

    “Just think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of them are even stupider!” – George Carlin

  14. Iano says:


    I certainly see a pattern, whether it’s intended or not I don’t know. I think 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 3, function as just being the 9th number, the 8th number, the 7th number and so on. I don’t think they have any value in regards to adding, multiplying or subtracting or whatever. Anyway here it goes
    The amount between 72 and 56 is 16, cool. Then the amount between 56 and 42 is 14, ok. And the amount between 42 and 30 is 12, and now the pattern is forming…..

    72 – 16 = 56 (the 8th number)
    56 – 14 = 42 (the 7th number)
    42 – 12 = 30 (the 6th number)
    30 – 10 = 20 (the 5th number)
    Here the 4th number is omitted, I think to throw the person, or, to devide genius from the not so genius 😉 , so if I continue with the pattern….
    As we can see in the pattern with 16, 14, 12, 10, it’s fair to assume the next number must be 8 so…………
    20 – 8 = 12 (the 4th number)
    12 – 6 = 6 (the 3rd number)


    4=12 (omitted number)

  15. Iano says:

    *divide aha

  16. david says:

    Of course, ‘=’ does not mean ‘equals’ – it’s just a placeholder for a number. So what numbers for ‘=’ make a sequence with explainable differences? – and also accounting for the missing ‘4’ ? ..

    8356 diff 1116
    7242 diff 1114
    6130 diff 1112
    5020 diff 1110
    3912 diff 1008

    So the answer is 12 – and as I have not seen this explanation given anywhere else I assert this is the unique correct answer and I claim my own genius prize :-)

  17. Angel says:

    Sometimes the relation operator ‘=’ is used for assignment rather than equality. However you are also correct. . .

  18. Mark Hong says:

    8 = 56
    7 = 42 = 56 – 14 , 14 = 7+7
    6 = 30 = 42 – 12, 12 = 6+6
    5 = 20 = 30 – 10, 10 = 5+5
    There is no 4
    3 = 14 = 20 – 6, 6 = 3+3

  19. munna says:

    Da answer is 6
    Evry one know da mathematical formula n=n*(n-1)

  20. Veer says:

    9=72 (Incorrect)
    8=56 (Incorrect)
    7=42 (Incorrect)
    6=30 (Incorrect)
    5=20 (Incorrect)
    3=3 (Correct)

  21. Mike says:

    7 x 8 = 56
    6 x 7 = 42
    5 x 6 = 30
    4 x 5 = 20
    3 x 4 = 12
    2 x 3 = 6 <—-The Answer is 6 !

  22. ronnie says:

    I agree with Brad Smith. That’s how I used to see the figures…

  23. Shihab TA says:

    8 x 7 =56
    7 x 6=42
    6 x 5=30
    5 x 4 =20

    3 x 3 = 9 is the answer!

  24. mini says:

    8=56 8×8=64 64-8=56
    9×9=81 81-9=72
    similarly u will get
    3×3 that is 9 and 9-3=6
    then 6 is the answer

    another way is
    similarly u will get 3×2=6
    therefore 6 is the answer and will be the answer

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