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Why x and y?

Date: Wed, 30 Nov 1994 20:39:50 -500 (EST)
From: Harvie Porter
Subject: Why x and y?

My Algebra One class wants to know why certain letters get chosen 
to represent specific quantities in algebra.  In particular, why are x  
and y chosen to represent the abscissa and ordinate of an ordered pair, 
and why is the letter m used to represent slope?

Please answer this question so I can share with the students the 
benefit of reaching out to others for assistance.

Many thanks,

Date: Wed, 7 Dec 1994 00:09:10 -0100
From: Dr. Ethan
Subject: Re: Why x and y?

Hi Harvie,

        Neat question.  The use of x and y as common unknowns and
eventually as the coordinate axis was established by Rene Descartes.  
It is fitting that the father of the Cartesian plane would get to name 
the axis.  They first appeared in his work La Géometrie. This was 
published in 1637 (I think).

                Hope that helps.
                         Ethan Doctor on call
Associated Topics:
High School History/Biography

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