When we think of Mathematics, we may not think of languages at first. However, even the most orthodox mathematician will tell you that the discipline is pure language – the language of science. The language of mathematics is unique among languages in its ability to provide precise expression for every thought or concept that can be formulated in its terms.

We often take mathematical symbols for granted because symbols are so common in maths. These mathematical symbols make math easy to perform so much so that we usually forget to appreciate their value! In this article, we introduce you to the most common mathematical symbols and essential math vocabulary that you can build upon in your private Maths classes online.

Learn about the story of the evolution of teaching mathematics.

mathematical symbols
Without the basic math symbols, it will be impossible to develop advanced knowledge in maths. | Image source: Science ABC
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Basic Maths Symbols

Basic maths symbols help us to work with complex mathematical concepts in a theoretical manner. Simply put, without symbols, we cannot do maths. Mathematical signs and symbols are considered representative of the value. The basic symbols in maths are represented in this table, along with their meanings and illustrative examples. Use this table as your private Maths tutor!

Here is all you need to know about the evolution of the perceptions towards and pedagogy of Mathematics.

Symbol Symbol Name Meaning Example
= equals sign equality 5 = 2+3
not equal sign inequality 5 ≠ 4
> strict inequality greater than 5 > 4
< strict inequality less than 4 < 5
inequality greater than or equal to 5 ≥ 4
inequality less than or equal to 4 ≤ 5
( ) parentheses calculate expression inside first 2 × (3+5) = 16
[ ] brackets calculate expression inside first [(1+2)*(1+5)] = 18
+ plus sign addition 1 + 1 = 2
minus sign subtraction 2 − 1 = 1
± plus - minus both plus and minus operations 3 ± 5 = 8 and -2
minus - plus both minus and plus operations 3 ∓ 5 = -2 and 8
* asterisk multiplication 2 * 3 = 6
× times sign multiplication 2 × 3 = 6
multiplication dot multiplication 2 ∙ 3 = 6
÷ division sign / obelus division 6 ÷ 2 = 3
/ division slash division 6 / 2 = 3
- horizontal line division / fraction
mod modulo remainder calculation 7 mod 2 = 1
. period decimal point, decimal separator 2.56 = 2+56/100
ab power exponent 23= 8
a^b caret exponent 2 ^ 3 = 8
√a square root √a - √a  = a √9 = ±3
3√a cube root 3√a - 3√a  - 3√a  = a 3√8 = 2
4√a fourth root 4√ a< - 4√ a  - 4√ a  - 4√ a  = a 4√ 16 = ±32
n√ a< n-th root (radical) for n=3, n√ 8 = 2
% percent 1% = 1/100 10% × 30 = 3
per-mille 1‰ = 1/1000 = 0.1% 10‰ × 30 = 0.3
ppm per-million 1ppm = 1/1000000 10ppm × 30 = 0.0003
ppb per-billion 1ppb = 1/1000000000 10ppb × 30 = 3×10-7
ppt per-trillion 1ppt = 10-12 10ppt × 30 = 3×10-10

Maths Vocabulary

It is equally important to teach and learn the language of mathematics for the development of mathematical proficiency. Mathematical vocabulary learning is a critical part of a student's language development and, eventually, mathematical proficiency.

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The language of mathematics is the system used by mathematicians to communicate mathematical ideas among themselves. Math vocabulary can be distinguished from natural languages in that it aims to communicate abstract, logical ideas with precision and unambiguity.

math vocab
Maths is the language of science and like all other sciences, maths too has its unique set of vocabulary. | Image source: Instant Display

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Essential Math Vocabulary with Meanings

  1. Plus: The arithmetic operation of summing
  2. Quotient: The number obtained by division
  3. Difference: The number that remains after subtraction
  4. Combine: Put or add together
  5. Separate: Force, take, or pull apart
  6. Together: Assembled in one place
  7. Change: The balance of money received
  8. Times: An arithmetic operation that is the inverse of division
  9. Remaining: Not used up
  10. Increased: Made greater in size or amount or degree
  11. Total: The whole amount
  12. Shared: Have in common; held or experienced in common
  13. Sum: A quantity obtained by the addition of a group of numbers
  14. Leftover: Not used up
  15. Less: Fewer
  16. Fewer: Quantifier meaning a smaller number of
  17. Product: A quantity obtained by multiplication
  18. Factor: Any number that forms a product when multiplied
  19. Decreased: made less in size or amount or degree
  20. Split: Separate into parts or portions
  21. Half: One of two equal parts of a divisible whole
  22. Quarter: One of four equal parts
  23. Cube: The product of three equal terms
  24. Square: A polygon with four equal sides and four right angles
  25. More: Greater in size or amount or extent or degree
  26. Addend: A number that is combined with another number
  27. Average: Around the middle of a scale of evaluation
  28. Coordinate: A number that identifies a position relative to an axis
  29. Denominator: The divisor of a fraction
  30. Numerator: The dividend of a fraction
  31. Equation: A mathematical statement that two expressions are the same
  32. Expression: A group of symbols that make a mathematical statement
  33. Estimate: An approximate calculation of quantity or degree or worth
  34. Fraction: The quotient of two rational numbers
  35. Integer: Any natural number or its negative, or zero
  36. Mean: An average computed by adding some function of the numbers
  37. Median: Relating to the middle value of an ordered set of values
  38. Mode: The most frequent value of a random variable
  39. Prime: A number that has no factor but itself and 1
  40. Probability: A measure of how likely it is that some event will occur
  41. Acute: (of an angle) Less than 90 degrees
  42. Angle: The space between two lines or planes that intersect
  43. Area: The extent of a two-dimensional surface within a boundary
  44. Perimeter: A line enclosing a plane area
  45. Circle: A plane curve with every point equidistant from the center
  46. Circumference: The length of the closed curve of a circle
  47. Congruent: Corresponding in character or kind
  48. Equilateral: Having all sides of the same length
  49. Hexagon: A six-sided polygon
  50. Intersecting: Crossed or intersected in the form of an X
  51. Isosceles: (of a triangle) Having two sides of equal length
  52. Line: A length between two points
  53. Segment: One of several parts that fit with others to make a whole
  54. Obtuse: Of an angle, between 90 and 180 degrees
  55. Octagon: A shape with eight angles and eight sides
  56. Parallel: Being everywhere equidistant and not intersecting
  57. Parallelogram: A quadrilateral whose opposite sides are parallel and equal
  58. Pentagon: A shape with five angles and five sides
  59. Perpendicular: Intersecting at or forming right angles
  60. Polygon: A closed plane figure bounded by straight sides
  61. Quadrilateral: A four-sided polygon
  62. Ray: (mathematics) A straight line extending from a point
  63. Rhombus: A parallelogram with four equal sides
  64. Right: Having the axis perpendicular to the base
  65. Scalene: Having three sides of different lengths
  66. Straight: Free from curves or angles
  67. Symmetry: Exact reflection of form on opposite sides of a line
  68. Volume: The amount of 3-dimensional space occupied by an object

Math Literacy

While studying and analyzing math books is a great way to engage oneself with the subject, that is not what being math literate means. Math literacy is when learners are able to problem solve and use the language of maths in everyday situations. In other words, math literacy (also known as numeracy) means having the ability to problem-solve, reason, and analyze information.

Why Math Literacy Matters

  • Beyond language literacy, math literacy is a key developmental step for students.
  • Being math literate ensures the ability to use numbers to solve real-world problems.
  • It is also the ability to understand the “language” (or, vocabulary) of math.
  • Math literacy helps students to analyze and decode the meaning of a question by understanding the terminology.

As important early math skills are taught, teachers need to use math vocabulary to show how these skills relate to everyday life. Through this connection, learners, early in their education, can build a strong foundation to become confident and effective with math in their future.

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Improve Your Math Vocabulary

There are a few easy ways to learn and improve maths vocabulary. Besides signing up for Maths classes near me, students can follow these simple processes and activities to consolidate their learning of mathematical language.

Find Maths tutorial here on Superprof.

math literacy
Mathematics is much more than numbers and symbols and has applications in everyday life. | Image source: Modern Classroom

Systematic Approach to Vocabulary Practice

Students should aim to learn new vocabulary daily but in short spurts, according to the experts. Too many hours a day might be counterproductive to learning. Instead, if students commit to just 15 minutes a day of focused practice, they’ll soon have a solid linguistic base of new words and definitions in Mathematics. Incorporate this practice into your daily classroom routine as following up and testing can affirm and solidify the words you have learned.

Read about one of the greatest scientific minds, Albert Einstein, and his contribution to Maths.

Reading for Meaning

Reading for meaning is a research-based strategy that helps all readers make sense of challenging texts. Reading is one of the most effective ways to teach vocabulary and regular reading is the strategy that gives students the opportunity to practice and master the phases of critical reading that lead to reading success and improved word usage. Strategies can include actively searching for new words during reading and reflecting on what was learned after reading.

Vocabulary in Context

Going through a list of words that are not connected to the subject of Mathematics is the wrong approach. Instead, teachers can ask students to answer questions based on descriptions or create their own fill-in-the-blank assignments. Games, puzzles, songs and music, and real-life objects are important tools. For students to effectively and accurately produce math vocabulary, they have to spontaneously recall the words.

Enrich your mathematical horizons by learning about the history and evolution of mathematics.

Content-specific Vocabulary

Being content-specific means terms, concepts, or vocabulary that have explicit meaning critical to understanding particular content. A student’s maximum level of reading comprehension is determined by his or her knowledge of words. Students should be taught keywords that are needed to comprehend texts and learn the content in those texts.

Students must learn to define a word, recognize when to use that word, its multiple meanings, and spell that word. Some ways to do this are through pictures and symbols. It is also important to assess a student’s use of words in writing and speaking.

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Word Association

This is an activity that teachers usually use with large classes and limited resources. Typically, a word is written on the board. Then, students are asked to say the first word that pops up in their head which has a relation to the word on the board. If a student can’t come up with a word, this is the perfect opportunity to go over the meaning.

Find online Math tutor here on Superprof.

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Shreyanjana

Shreyanjana is an archaeologist who ironically finds the written word to be the most powerful means of storytelling. A travel buff and a photography enthusiast, she has been writing and sharing stories of all sorts ever since she can remember.