**Tell us what’s happening:**

I’ve been having problems with returning a string instead of just printing out the formatted calculation thing. I’ve managed to ‘solve’ the problem and print out the numbers correctly formated but it obviously doesn’t return as a string and i have no idea how to do that.

Can i even do something like (" " * x) on a string like i can on a print statement? Which is something i’ve used, this is getting frustrating because it’s such a dumb issue

x, y and z are basically the number of spaces i have to print out, it’s probably not obvious to someone reading the code

**Your code so far**

```
def arithmetic_arranger(problems):
# error checking before any calculations are made, starting by the number of problems provided
if len(problems) > 5:
return 'Error: Too many problems.'
# checking for more errors
for value in problems:
# number of digits and operator error checking
if len(value.split()[0]) > 4 or len(value.split()[2]) > 4:
return 'Error: Numbers cannot be more than four digits.'
elif value.split()[1] not in ['+', '-']:
return "Error: Operator must be '+' or '-'."
# now this actually works, didn't expect it to. I don't think it's the correct way to do it though, however it's there and it works. checking if the number is actually a number
try:
test_var1 = int(value.split()[0])
test_var2 = int(value.split()[2])
except:
return "Error: Numbers must only contain digits."
# actually writing the function now
first_number = list()
second_number = list()
operators = list()
# creating lists
for value in problems:
first_number.append(value.split()[0])
second_number.append(value.split()[2])
operators.append(value.split()[1])
print("first", first_number, "operator", operators, "second", second_number)
for j in range(3):
for i in range(len(problems)):
flen = len(first_number[i])
slen = len(second_number[i])
if flen > slen:
y = 2
x = 1 + flen - slen
z = 2 + flen
elif slen > flen:
x = 1
y = 2 + slen - flen
z = slen + 2
elif slen == flen:
x = 1
y = 2
z = flen + 2
if j == 0:
#print("first line")
print(" " * y, first_number[i], " " * 4,sep="", end="")
elif j == 1:
if i == 0:
print()
print(operators[i], " " * x, second_number[i], " " * 4, sep = "", end="")
elif j == 2:
if i == 0:
print()
print("-" * z, " " * 4, end="", sep="")
return
```

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.

**Challenge:** Arithmetic Formatter

**Link to the challenge:**