X = 5, Mathematicians Announce

By Ilya Yashin


At an emergency press conference last night, held only 12 hours before the homework was due, a team of over-caffeinated top American mathematicians announced that x = 5. “We got it! We got it! X equals five!” they screamed, high-fiving and fist-bumping each other, to the relief and cheers of the audience.

“Okay, so you see these two sets of parentheses here and here?” said Jeremy Pelson, Professor Emeritus at MIT, pointing at the first of four lines of the solution to the problem reportedly worth 20 points total with possible partial credit. “FOIL them, then divide by x-squared on both sides and combine this thing with this one here, factor out the coefficients and solve for x and you’re done!”

Before plunking down into his chair with an air of supreme accomplishment, he added that if you got 12 you had probably forgotten that the second and third signs over here should be minuses because of the FOILing in the first step.

Stanford professor Jan Prestoff noted in the concluding remarks that they still weren’t sure if they were supposed to use the formula from the book for the second to last problem but, at this point it wasn’t worth it to go back and redo it from scratch, so they’d just try to convince Ms. Reily that she had told them to use it.

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