I want everyone to know that this is NOT a math lesson. If there is one thing I thought Artificial Intelligence (AI) would be wonderful for, it’s math. That’s because, unlike touch-feeley questions presented to AI, math is very well defined. You would think AI would be wonderful at math because it would “know” all of the formulas and processes that are so well-defined on the Internet. It turned out that for this little test, that is not the case.

**How This Test Started**

My grandson contacted me about a high school math problem. He did that because I taught math at our local high school for 10 years. It was a fairly lengthy solution, but he only wanted to know if he had the correct answers. My thought was that AI (Google Bard in this case) should be able to get the correct answers a lot faster than I could. AI failed miserably, not getting the correct answers on the first few tries. That’s when I decided to see if AI could at least find the correct answers to a similar but far simpler problem.

**My Conversation With AI**** **

**Note:** **All the responses from AI are abbreviated for this article because this is not a math lesson.**

**I said:** **Use synthetic division to find the roots of y=x^2 + 5x + 6**

**AI responded:
**Sure, here are the steps on how to use synthetic division to find the roots of y=x^2 + 5x + 6:

1. Set up the synthetic division problem.

2. Write the divisor, x-r, outside the box, where r is the root you are trying to find.

3. Bring down the first number in the dividend, which is 1.

4. Multiply the first number in the dividend by the divisor and write the product

5. Add the next two numbers in the dividend.

6. Multiply the sum of the last two numbers in the dividend by the divisor.

7. Add the last two numbers in the dividend.

8. The number below the dividend is the remainder. Since the remainder is 0, the divisor is a factor of the dividend. This means that x-r is a root of the polynomial. In this case, the roots are r=-5 and r=-2.

Therefore, the roots of y=x^2 + 5x + 6 are -5 and -2.

**I said:** **That is incorrect. Please find the correct roots.**

**AI responded:
**My apologies. The correct roots of y=x^2 + 5x + 6 are 2 and -3. I made a mistake in step 5, where I should have added 11 instead of 5. Here is the correct synthetic division problem:

The number below the dividend is the remainder. Since the remainder is 0, the divisor is a factor of the dividend. This means that x-2 is a root of the polynomial. In this case, the roots are r=2 and r=-3.

Therefore, the roots of y=x^2 + 5x + 6 are 2 and -3.

**I said:** **That is still incorrect. Please find the correct roots.**

**AI responded:
**You are correct. The roots of y=x^2 + 5x + 6 are 3 and -2. Here is the correct synthetic division problem:

The number below the dividend is the remainder. Since the remainder is 0, the divisor is a factor of the dividend. This means that x-3 is a root of the polynomial. In this case, the roots are r=3 and r=-2.

Therefore, the roots of y=x^2 + 5x + 6 are 3 and -2.

**I said: That is still incorrect. Please find the correct roots.**

**AI responded:
**I apologize for the previous mistakes. The correct roots of y=x^2 + 5x + 6 are -2 and -3. Here is the correct synthetic division problem:

The number below the dividend is the remainder. Since the remainder is 0, the divisor is a factor of the dividend. This means that x+2 is a root of the polynomial. In this case, the roots are r=-2 and r=-3.

Therefore, the roots of y=x^2 + 5x + 6 are -2 and -3.

Finally, AI got the correct answers in its final response above.

**The Takeaway**

If you or anyone you know wants to use AI for doing math, please have them be VERY careful. In this relatively simple problem above, it was easy enough for me to check the answers given. If possible, whoever tries doing math with AI should always question the result. Better yet, learn from a class how to do it without AI.

Your feedback on this article is welcome. Please use the Comments section below to respond.

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Reg WatsonHo Ho – Thanks Stuart – yes it shows how dangerous it is to fully rely on AI as I am sure many Millenials are currently doing exactly that. But unlike you they don’t have any idea how to do the Maths to check the answer for themselves. And goodluck to those first brave souls going to Mars.

“Ai: calculate how much oxygen we have left in this spacecraft. Will we have enough to dock with Centauri 1 in three days time ?”

“Yes. I have calculated you have sufficient oxygen – enough for five days.”

2 days later.

“My apologies. I made a mistake in step 5, where I should have subtracted 11 instead of adding 7. You now have twelve minutes of oxygen remaining. Would you like me to assist you to prepare your final goodbye messages to friends and loved ones….?”

Stuart BergHi Reg,

Doing a relatively easy math problem with AI is one thing. Using AI when your survival depends on it is entirely another. I would quadruple-check AI results for a life-threatening situation.

Thanks for commenting,

Stu

Robert HagedornThis high school has a good math department.

Stuart BergHi Robert,

Yes, I agree. My grandson goes to an excellent public high school in Massachusetts.

Thanks for commenting.

Stu

Bernie AmlerRather use WolframAlpha to do your math and leave AI (Absolute Idiot) to the AIs that use it..

Stuart BergHi Bernie,

Yes, Wolfram Alpha is made for this purpose. You would think that if AI was “all knowing” it would have learned from Wolfram Alpha and been able to immediately solve this relatively easy math problem. This experiment shows me that AI is not ready for “prime time”, at least for solving math problems.

Thanks for commenting,

Stu