Maths Vocabulary in English: Do You Know the Basics?

Maths Vocabulary in English: Do You Know the Basics?

You’re about to learn some vocabulary to talk about mathematics in English. Also check out Numbers in English: The Ultimate Guide.

It’s a common situation.

As an excellent speaker of English, you can talk about almost anything you want.

Almost …

But when you need to explain a bit of simple maths, like this:

6 × (2 + 8) ÷ 2

… you’re completely stuck.

Don’t worry! You’re not alone! Loads of high-level learners have problems with even the simplest maths vocabulary in English.

So today, let’s solve this issue once and for all!

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Maths Vocabulary in English

Addition: 23 + 13

There are two ways we can use this one:

23 plus 13
Add 13 to 23

But what are the answers?

Good question. When we want to say the result of the sum, we can say “equals” or just “is”:

23 plus 13 equals 36
23 plus 13 is 36

This works for all the sums we’re looking at today.

OK. Now what?

OK, so you can make a simple sum in English.

But I’m guessing that most of the time, when you need to talk about maths in English, things aren’t that simple.

Most of the time, when people are talking about numbers and manipulating them with mathematics, they don’t just do a simple sum, then stop.

I mean, how weird does this look?

How do we calculate this year's tax? 25 plus 13 plus 2 equals 40.

Usually, we need to do a series of small sums.

So we take a number we already have, then do the calculation from there.

In other words, maths, like language, is something we only use in context.

Add that to 23
Now add 13

We can even use it in fuller sentences:

You’ll get the answer by adding 13 to 23.

OK — I’ve added the numbers up. Now what?

The passive is also very common:

OK. Once all the numbers are added together, send the result to me.

So the guy in the picture above could’ve said:

“Add the monthly profits to the yearly profits. Then add two.”

Or however you calculate company taxes. I don’t know — I’m an English teacher.

Addition in English: how to use plus and add

Maths Vocabulary in English

Subtraction: 23 – 13

With some basic math terms in English, we have a slightly informal way and a slightly more formal way of saying them.

Here are the less formal ones:

23 minus 13
23 take 13
Take 13 from 23 (23 – 13)

And the formal one:

13 subtracted from 23 (23 – 13)

OK. Now what?

And now in context:

Take 13 (from that)
Subtract 13 (from that)

You can also use these in a more wordy way:

Find the answer by subtracting 10.

Add up the numbers and take away seven.

Subtraction in English: how to use minus, take and subtract

Maths Vocabulary in English

Multiplication: 23 × 13

OK. We’re getting onto the big stuff! Here we go …

The informal one:

23 times 13

And the more formal ones:

23 multiplied by 13
23 by 13
Multiply 23 by 13
Multiply 23 and 13 (together)

OK. Now what?

And in context:

Multiply that by 13
Times that by 13

And, of course, a more wordy one:

Get the total by multiplying that by 100.

Multiplication in English: how to use times and multiply

Maths Vocabulary in English

Division: 23 ÷ 13

Division has always driven me crazy.

I mean, addition, subtraction and multiplication — they’re all fine. You can combine any two numbers and then you get another whole number.

But with division, you can get some ridiculous results. Results that make my head hurt.

Anyway, here’s how to talk about this terrifying mathematical phenomenon:

23 divided by 13

Yep. That’s it. No formal or informal thing here. Just the frightening sum with the even more frightening result. (I’m not even going to check the answer. You can if you like.)

OK. Now what?

Divide that by 13

Again, there’s really just one way to talk about division. And that’s it.

Division in English: how to use divide

Bringing it all together.

OK. So you can talk about basic math terms in English.

But what about talking about a more complicated series of sums? Like we do in real life.

I’m guessing this is something that you either have to talk about or that you have to understand at some point in your English-speaking life, right?

But just saying the sums can be confusing:

4 multiplied by 4 plus 2 take away 11 divided by 5

Thankfully, there are a few simple phrases to make this clearer and less painful:

Start with four multiplied by four. Take that and divide by 32. Then subtract 12. OK, then take all of that and take away 12.

Be careful! Don’t get confused between “take that,” meaning “use that number,” and “take that from,” meaning “subtract that from.”

And definitely don’t get it confused with Take That — the ’90s boy band:

Take That
Take That by Mike Pop Artist | CC BY 2.0

And sometimes this can happen with references instead of numbers:

Start with four multiplied by our yearly profit in euros. Take that and divide by 32, then subtract the number of sales in March. OK, then take all of that and take away the number you started with.

OK. Now you can use maths vocabulary in English.

Wanna try it out?

Can you describe this sum to me?

(32 + (67 ÷ 18) – 87) × 9

Answer in the comments … if you dare!

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14 thoughts on “Maths Vocabulary in English: Do You Know the Basics?

  1. Thanks Clark and Miller for yur first free lesson of: Ssunns, multiplication, division and substraction. I weit for the next lesson. Thaksyou. PabloD

  2. Hi Gabriel I really liked this subject you explained. It’s been quite useful.
    Thanks a lot. Regards

  3. Hi Clark,
    Thanks a lot for this post. Here is my answer to your question: Take 67 divided by18 and add that to 32. Then, take from that and finally multiply the result by 9… Is it OK?

    1. Hi Gabriela,

      Great work, but just one little bit was a little unclear.

      You said “take from that and finally multiply the result…” — I guess you wanted to say “take 87 from that,” right?

      If the answer to that question is “yes,” then — great work! You got it! The important thing is that you’re using the vocabulary correctly and in a way that makes everything super clear. Nice one!

  4. Here are my answer
    “Start with 67 divided by 7 and add that to 32 and take 87 from that and finally get all of that times 9”

    1. Sorry I have a mistake
      Start with 67 divided by 18 and add that to 32 and take 87 from that and finally get all of that times 9

      1. Nice one Son!

        Yeah — that is all correct!

        If you wanted to sound a little more natural I’d recommend tweaking the last part and changing it to “…and finally take all of that and multiply it by 9.”

        Hope that helps! 🙂

  5. hi Gaby nice too meet you, been learning about numbers and how to describing and I found this article very useful.
    Here´s my answer: the first thing to do is to take 67 and divided It by 18, then take that result and add 32, then take that and subtract 87 from It, and then the result that we get let´s multiply it by 9.

    1. Hi Alberto,

      I’m glad you found the post useful.

      I’d say that your reply was almost 100% perfect — just one small mistake:

      Instead of “… take 67 and divided it …” it should read “… take 67 and divide it …” — so that both verbs (“take” and “divide”) are in the same tense.

      But, to be fair, you got all the tricky stuff perfect.

      Nice work!

  6. Hello Gabriel, my name is Lucas and I’m from Argentina. As soon as I came across your site I immediately became a fan. Thank you for sharing such great lessons!
    I’d like to ask you about the usage of the following construction related to division: “How many times does five go into twelve? Five goes into twelve twice with two left over”.Sorry if I made grammar mistakes… 😉
    Greetings from my city: Paso de los Libres, Corrientes, Argentina.

    1. Hi Lucas,

      Thanks for such a positive comment and welcome to the gang!

      Good question, too. And the answer is “YES!” — it’s totally correct and you made no grammar mistakes.

      Thanks for drawing attention to this way of talking about division. I guess I missed it out when I was writing this post. 🙂

      Keep up the good work!

  7. Thank you for this lesson.I learned a new thing from you.It is very important to my university lessons.
    Thank you for sharing such a greate lesson.

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