Mathematical Terminology

If you’re studying at university, you will probably use mathematics somewhere in your course even if your course isn’t directly related to mathematics. At the minimum, you will need some basic maths to demonstrate your numeracy (a graduate attribute) across your units of study.

If you would like help with the language of ‘everyday’ mathematics, there are links to online resources (glossaries, videos and courses) below.

Useful Resources


  • Mathematical Homonyms and Homophones (opens in a new window) - this file gives the meanings of many words commonly used in mathematics along with their meaning in everyday use and similar sounding words for which they may be mistaken.
  • Mathswords (opens in a new window) - “Terms and Formulas from Beginning Algebra to Calculus. An interactive math dictionary with enough math words, math terms, math formulas, pictures, diagrams, tables, and examples to satisfy your inner math geek.”
  • Maths Centre (UK): Mathematical language (opens in a new window) - This introductory booklet describes conventions used in mathematical work and gives information on the appropriate use of symbols. Topics include
    • common mathematical symbols
    • variables
    • the Greek alphabet
    • more symbols.

Videos and Online Courses

  • Maths Centre (UK): Mathematical Language (opens in a new window) - This set of short video tutorials covers the symbols used in mathematical work. It describes conventions used by mathematicians, engineers and scientists. Topics include:
    • digits, names of digits, use of context, what is a convention?
    • addition, subtraction, multiplication
    • division, equal/not equal to, approximately equal to and greater than/less than
    • variables, use of subscripts
    • letters of the Freel alphabet as used in mathematics
    • position of symbols: superscripts used for indices and degrees
    • using brackets for coordinates, for probability, percentage symbol
    • square root symbol, mean, repeating decimals.
  • Math terminology for incoming uni students (opens in a new window) - This course is organised into modules, each covering a different topic. Each module consists of a video of about 30 - 45 minutes and 15 - 30 minutes of activities. Topics include:
    • math terminology for incoming uni students
    • numbers and arithmetic
    • the language of Geometry
    • the language of Algebra.