## Archive for December 29, 2011

### Algebra, a Symbol-Minded Pursuit

It is reported that when Augustus DeMorgan was asked his age, he responded algebraically:

I was

xyears old in the yearx^{2}.

From personal experience, I can assure you that responding to a simple question with an algebra problem is no way to make friends. But perhaps DeMorgan had better success with this tactic than I.

As it turns out, there is a similar fact regarding my age and year of birth.

In the year

x^{2}, my age will x years with the digits of x reversed.

The following anonymous quotation would, I suspect, meet with DeMorgan’s approval:

The human mind has never invented a labor-saving machine equal to algebra.

Almost everyone has an opinion about algebra, and most people have expressed their opinion without anonymity.

- Stand firm in your refusal to remain conscious during algebra. In real life, I assure you, there is no such thing as algebra.

*Fran Lebowitz* - One person’s constant is another person’s variable.

*Susan Gerhart* - [My algebra teacher] kept putting problems up on the board. I just kept following her and erasing the problems. Then she yells at me. I’m like, “Number 1, I like to attack the problem, not the person. That’s the first rule of problem solving. And B, you kinda seem like you’re a trouble maker, because you got to come up with all these fake problems, and it’s really cutting into our pizza time.” And she’s like, “You can’t list things 1 and then B. It’s 1 and 2, or A and B.” And I’m like, “Oh, you don’t like it when I mix numbers and letters together? Like you do in algebra, you hypocrite?”

*Mike Vecchione*