• # Question: Do you know why the alphabet decide to mix itself up with maths?

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Asked by alanah to Cathal on 12 Nov 2013.
• Cathal Cummins answered on 12 Nov 2013:

If I said, what number, when you multiply it by 10 and add 6 to it gives 36, how would you go about it… Well, suppose I said let the number we’re looking for be a smiley face 🙂

then, we can write the question like this

10 * 🙂 + 6 = 36

Which reads in English 10 times smiley face take away 6 is equal to 36. Now if we carry out the maths we find

10 * 🙂 +6-6 = 36-6
10 * 🙂 = 30
🙂 =3

so the answer is 3. Now, we used a smiley face, but we could have used any symbol we liked… so what are the best symbols to use? Well, everyone knows the alphabet, so why don’t we just use them. You might find that mathematics uses not just the a, b, c alphabet but uses alphabets from thousands of years ago; this is because the first mathematicians used these alphabets. 🙂

The above maths problem would look more like the following

10 * x +6 = 36
10 * x +6 -6= 36-6
10 * x= 30
x =3

But you can use any symbol you like — sometimes I use little squares or triangles if I get bored with the alphabet!!!