Why Use X and Y for Variables?
Date: 10/23/2002 at 01:14:17 From: Jennifer Connelly Subject: Algebra Why does everyone like to use the variables X and Y in an equation? I find other variables to be nicer. Please help me answer this question. Thank you.
Date: 10/23/2002 at 12:37:39 From: Doctor Peterson Subject: Re: Algebra Hi, Jennifer. This page (listed at the bottom of the Dr. Math FAQ) gives a history of this usage: Earliest Uses of Symbols for Variables - Jeff Miller http://jeff560.tripod.com/variables.html As you'll see there, part of the answer is that x is not used as often as other letters (in French, in particular), so there were more of them available to early printers. But the only reason we can give with any certainty is that Descartes chose to take his knowns from the beginning of the alphabet and his unknowns from the end, and others followed his tradition. There's probably no more reason than that arbitrary choice. If you have any further questions, feel free to write back. - Doctor Peterson, The Math Forum http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
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