The thing that fascinated me most when I started looking over the edge into that white space was this: it isn’t empty at all. It’s full of the kind of questions that we, as a world, need to know the answers to – and some that are just so bizarre that we wonder why we bother.
Take for example this: there are equations that cannot be solved. I wish I’d known that when I was completely befuddled by advanced mathematics: hell, I couldn’t even work out what type of equation I was dealing with half the time.
Here’s the question: if an equation cannot be solved, how can it be considered an equation?
An equation is a formula: this equals that.
If I have five people coming to dinner and each will have three courses then
number of people x number of courses = number of dishes I must prepare.
p * n = d.
It’s not rocket science. But it is an equation.
Equations can be used to find an unknown.
Flour plus water plus yeast = bread.
Flour plus water = pasta.
What makes pasta into bread?
f+w+y = f+w+x
Find the x factor to turn pasta into bread.
School yourself.com sets the following test:
5p +18 = 8p.
The correct answer is not ″who cares? Move on.″
It’s … I don’t know. There is a way to do it but I don’t know it and my history in maths at A level suggests that I never knew it. But I do know that I can use estimation and trial and error and perhaps find an answer.
But before that, I can think of it as a logic puzzle. There is one salient fact about equations: they are like scales: so long as you do the same to both sides, they remain in balance.
I think that if we deduct 5p from both sides, we are left with 3p on one side and 18 on the other. If we divide both sides by 3, we get p=6.
Amazingly, not only did I get it right, I got the method exactly the same as the website.