I never liked math in school that much. However, math is very important! Because of this, knowing English for math is also important. If you have to talk about numbers, you’ll have to use some English for math. In this edition of Easy English, we cover (talk about) some basic math terms. These will be very useful in your daily life, because we use math every day.

So break out (get out, use) your calculator (tool to do math quickly), some paper, and maybe your dictionary. We’re learning all about (everything) English for math today!

To solve (ˈtuː ˈsɑːlv)

When you’re talking about math, you solve math problems (equations). Solving a math problem is the process of finding the right answer. Some math problems are easy to solve! Some are very hard. And some problems have never been solved at all! Did you like solving math problems in school? Or did you not like math class very much?

For example:

  • Can you solve this math problem for me? I keep getting (having) the wrong answer!
  • He had to solve 15 math problems for homework but they were hard! It took him 2 hours to finish his homework!

Add (ˈæd)

Addition, or to add, is to bring two or more things together. This will now give you a new total. For example, you have two apples. Your friend gives you two more apples. To find the solution, you add two and two. In this case, you would have four apples. It is written like this: 2+2 = 4 and we say, “two plus two equals four”.

For example:

  • Her daughter learned how to add in school yesterday. She helped her daughter with all her addition homework last night.
  • Can you please check my addition here? I think it’s right, but I want to be sure.

Subtract (səbˈtrækt)

To subtract is to take a number away from another number. This is called subtraction. For example, you have five apples. Someone steals (takes without asking for permission) two apples from you. Here, you would have to subtract two from five. And you would end up with three apples. It is written like this: 5-2 = 3 and we say, “five minus two equals three”.

For example:

  • The teacher taught the children subtraction. They practiced a lot in math class.
  • Please subtract 23 from 30. Write the correct answer below. (The answer is 7!)

Multiply (ˈmʌltəˌplaɪ)

To multiply is essentially (basically) repeated addition. This can also be called multiplication. For example, five friends give you three apples each. How do you count these quickly? In this case, you can multiply five by three. The answer would be 15 apples. In this case, you are adding three to itself five times. It is written like this: 3×5 = 15 and we say, “three times five equals fifteen”.

For example:

  • Multiplication can be hard, but if you work on it, it’ll get easier!
  • Please multiply 14 by nine. Write the solution on the board when you’re finished. (The answer is 126!)

Divide (dəˈvaɪd)

To divide is to split (divide, share, make smaller) numbers into parts equally (the same amount). In math, you can call this division or to divide. For example, you have 12 apples and three friends. You want to give all your friends the same number of apples. If you do this, you have to divide the apples. To do this, you divide 12 by three. In this case, each friend would get four apples. It is written like this: 12/3 = 4 and we say, “twelve divided by three equals four”.

For example:

  • Can you divide these cards between everyone, please? Make sure everyone gets the same amount!
  • She always thought division was hard. She likes to use a calculator to make sure she’s right.

When was the last time you did math? Did you find this English for math vocabulary helpful? Let us know in the comments below!


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Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and was never very good at math. This is why English for math is important!

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