# Josna Rege

## 270. The Challenge of X

In Books, Childhood, Education, Inter/Transnational, Music, reading, Stories, Words & phrases on April 28, 2014 at 4:58 am

(from wordplay.blogs.newyorktimes.com)

Algebra is like a good crossword puzzle. For any given equation you know that if you have values for all the unknowns except one, then you can solve for that unknown by balancing both sides. Typically that unknown is x.

As a girl, most of my experience with algebra involved solving set problems in which I had to arrive at the value of an x which someone else had already determined. (What is x? or, If x is. . . , then what is y?) What fascinates me more, though, is the idea that it is a variable quantity, not a fixed one. There is a great sense of satisfaction, akin to the feeling of solving a crossword puzzle, in solving for x in an algebra problem. But an even more exhilarating sense of freedom attends the recognition that x is entirely provisional. Within a given framework, one can set its value oneself, or play with different values for it (Let x be. . .).