I first got the idea for the “best” factoring method when I was looking at stretching the number line to make rational polynomial roots into integers, but if a person solves enough quadratic equations by factoring, the pattern will become apparent. I was sure that the method was not new. I called it the “best method” to be emphatic and to get a little attention. I did a desultory search for antecedents and found a few but no full-blown exposition.
Yesterday I was installing Wolfram’s CDF player on my tablet for a demonstration in Precalculus II and started to get antsy. There is a table outside my office and someone had put out something like seventy old math magazines, free for the taking. I picked up the magazine closest to hand, Mathematics Teacher, volume 83, number 8, November 1990. I was idly paging through back to front chuckling at the primitive BASIC computer programming code when suddenly my eye caught a letter to the editor from Warren A. Groskeutz, a high school teacher in Glendale, Wisconsin. He stated that his student, David Barson, had discovered a quick way to solve quadratic equations – precisely the method I have described in the last few posts.
I am a logical, rational individual who supposedly understands probability, but I couldn’t help but be amazed that that one magazine and that one page would come to hand at the exact time that I was thinking about the issue. A part of me wanted to believe that mysterious forces were at work. The other part was saying to me that a very low probability event had occurred and so what. In any case, I am richer and humbler for the experience and have yet another reason to marvel at the processes of the universe – random or not.