Wednesday 27 April 2011

X is for X

Don't you just love algebra? (I've found a nice example* for anyone who wants a challenge). You know the kind of thing. You start with "let x equal the number of butchers' dogs/fleas in the fleapit/guests at the royal wedding" or whatever, and then - oh then, dear readers - the fun begins. In comes y (to represent numbers of butchers' cats, for instance) and even sometimes z, and you have to work out what it all means.

As I said to my non-mathematical, panic-stricken granddaughter last week, algebra doesn't matter. Unless you are going to be a scientist (she isn't), you will never need x. Trust me. I have never for one minute required x (or y, or z) although it was all drilled into me by the hapless, humourless Miss Rowland, whose mantra (to me) was always 'Frances, you should have learnt that in the first form'. She refused to explain further, having apparently done it all before, so I remained ignorant. And do I regret it? Not a jot. I can see that if you're good at this kind of thing it might have a certain fascination, but speaking for myself, it most certainly had not. All I have ever needed maths-wise is simple addition and subtraction, and the times tables.

That's all.

*Solve the following equation. 2(2x +1) - 3(x - 1) = 8 (I'm afraid there aren't any prizes, as I've no idea what the anwer is.)


  1. Well my eyes glazed over at the equation you left us, so I'll presume the two men know what they're talking about! Couldn't wait to get out of the maths/arithmetic classes at school.

    PS Frances - your award is at my other blog: Just copy and paste it.

  2. Clever clogs (Keither and Tim) - provided of course that you're right!

    Rosemary, I'm glad I'm not alone! And I visted that blog and couldn't find the award. But then I'm one of those people who need sat nav to find anything, and I've left that in the car.

  3. While I do have to know how do equations in real life, for those less oppressed the internet can do it for you:

  4. Thanks, Tim, I'll bear that in mind.

  5. Thought you'd find it useful...

  6. Ok, Tim, Try these for size:

    Solve each equation and check for extraneous solutions.

    a) the root of w-3 = the root of 4w+15 (I can't make the root sign in this window)

    b)the root of x^2-5x+2 = x/2

    c) (5/y-3) = 1 + (y+7)/(2y-6)

  7. Depends on how far along the root signs go, but I think these are trick questions!

    I'll go back to debits and credits which yield more readily to my will...

  8. My ex-husband did once impress me hugely by using a simultaneous equation to work out everybody's contribution to a bar bill but, for myself, I remain as unconvinced about the need to be acquainted with x as you do!

  9. Keith, if you know, then please tell Tim, because he obviously can't do it by himself.

    Alis, I'm glad you're one of us(me)!

  10. I am not even going to try to solve that equation... ugh! I agree with you, Frances, I haven't needed X in my whole life... I had in fact repressed my dreadful memories of math and algebra in high school...

    Great post!