Date: Wed, 4 Dec 1996 23:48:08 -0600 (CST) Name: Paula Who is asking: Teacher Level: SecondaryQuestion:

Why is the solution called a "root"? Why not just the "x-intercepts"?

Hi Paula

The term root of a number is very old. The Oxford English Dictionary gives a reference to this term being used by Whetstone in 1557. A History of Mathematical Quotations (Florian Cajori, 1928) says that it was used by the Arab mathematicians in the twelfth century. It may actually date back to the time of the Babylonians. The use of the term "the root of a polynomial p(x)" as a number r for which p(r)=0, is a natural extension of the root of a number as its essential part or core.

The term x-intercept requires a coordinate system on the plane and this concept first appears in the works of René Decartes in 1637. So the answer seems to be that the term root is much older than x-intercept and does not presuppose a coordinate system.

Cheers

Chris and Harley

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