1 + 1 = 10

1 Plus 1


Let me ask a simple question:

How can 1 + 1 equal 10?

Is your instinct to prove that it’s wrong?

If so, then you’ll fail to answer the question.

Because I was serious: 1 + 1 can equal 10.

No, you don’t have to break any rules of math.

At the end of this article I will explain how 1 + 1 can equal 10 without breaking any rules of math.

In the meantime, I wish to use this to illustrate a point.

We all know that creative problem-solving requires thinking outside the box, right?

Despite this, we often find ourselves not only thinking inside the box, but fighting to stay in the box.

When we close our mind to the possibility that the solution lies outside the box, there is no chance of finding such a solution.


How can 1 + 1 = 10 without breaking any rules of math?

If you think 1 + 1 can only equal 2, that’s because you’re in the habit of working with base 10.

Very often, when a difficult problem can only be solved through a creative solution, the difficulty lies in overcoming incorrect assumptions that we take for granted.

Let’s consider the binary number system (base two).

In the binary number system, the only digits are 0 and 1.

The first number is 1, followed by 10, then 11, then 100, 101, 110, 111, 1000, 1001, etc.

In this system, the number 2 doesn’t exist. The second number is 10.

So 1 + 1 = 10 in the binary number system.

The number 10 is the “second” number of the binary number system. It’s not the “tenth” number in this system.

The solution was simple, just as simple as 1 + 1 = 2.

If it seemed impossible or difficult, it was just a matter of looking beyond assumptions that we often take for granted.


Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, author of the Improve Your Math Fluency Series


3 comments on “1 + 1 = 10

    • I must say that I have solved a few problems by getting a bit angry at myself for doing something silly, and then ‘thinking harder.’ Like grim determination. Thinking a hole right through the box, perhaps. 🙂

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