The Margin: Burger King might give you a free Whopper if you can solve this math problem

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Talk about food for thought.

This week, Burger King is giving free Whoppers to American students who can correctly answer questions online — well, free with any purchase on the BK App, however. (It’s never too soon to teach scholars to read the fine print!)

While U.S. schools are closed to promote social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Restaurant Brands International-owned QSR, -4.51% burger chain is dishing a promotion to reward students who are still studying despite the outbreak.

Here’s how it works: From April 13-20 (or, after 150,000 coupons have been awarded — whichever happens first), students ages 18 and up (or 13 through 18 with parental permission) must download the BK App. Then check Burger King’s Twitter TWTR, -2.01% and Facebook FB, -0.22% pages, where the chain will grill followers with a new question each day. Those who come up with the solution can then use it as a promo code to redeem the free Whopper.

But there’s no such thing as a free lunch, as the old saying goes. And there are a few catches with this limited-time offer, of course — the biggest being that you only get the free Whopper with purchase, meaning you still have to buy something on the app. What’s more, the promo doesn’t apply to people in Alaska, Hawaii or any U.S. territories. There’s a limit of one free Whopper per person, and you have to use your free Whopper coupon on the app within 24 hours.

First up on Monday was an algebraic math question:

If math isn’t your strongest subject, however, future questions will cover chemistry and literature, too.

Some 21 states have ordered or recommended school closures for the rest of the academic year to fight the spread of COVID-19, impacting 124,000 U.S. public and private schools and affecting at least 55.1 million students. And at least 3,278 colleges and universities across the country have also been impacted, with many closing their campuses and switching to online classes, affecting more than 22 million students. So now, many parents and caregivers have suddenly found themselves becoming homeschool teachers, with varied results.

Read more:Thanks to the coronavirus, my daughter now has America’s worst teacher

Common Sense Media recently polled 849 teenagers, and found that four in 10 haven’t done any online learning since schools closed — not a single online or virtual class. What’s more, one in four teens said they had connected with their teachers less than once a week. This could be because some districts may have been on spring break or hadn’t begun online classes yet when the survey was conducted between March 24 and April 1. Or it could be a lack of resources; before the COVID-19 pandemic, estimates suggested about 12 million students had no broadband internet access at home.

But is a free Whopper what the doctor ordered — especially when there are already concerns about stress-eating comfort foods leading to people gaining weight while under quarantine?

While some burger lovers on social media sung the promo’s praises, others called it out for being a marketing campaign.

“Burger King isn’t your friend, it’s a f—-ing fast food chain,” tweeted Daily Beast staffer Sarah Rogers.

Others complained that the Day 1 question was … well, a whopper

“I don’t think my 5th graders stand a chance at this equation,” wrote one user in the Facebook comments on Burger King’s official page.

“BK needs to have some psychiatric checkups done on whoever set up this promo,” commented another. “Never saw any math equation looking like that, even through college.”

But Burger King’s head of brand and communications for North America told Adweek that the promotion is supposed to be “a playful, light-hearted approach to a real life problem, something we could all use a little bit of right now.”

It’s also some more positive press after a video went viral recently showing a Tennessee Burger King turning away a truck driver whose semi was too tall to come through the drive-thru. The driver, Chris Sensing, tried walking up to the drive-thru window to place his order, and an employee at the Donelson location said that he was “a liability.” Carrols Restaurant Group, the company that operates the Burger King in question, has apologized for the incident, noting that the company’s policy of banning walk-ups at the drive-thru had actually been changed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and “unfortunately the manager involved did not receive the communication.”

Read more of MarketWatch’s coronavirus coverage here.


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