11 Basic Math Symbols and How to Use Them (2023)

By: Thomas Harlander|Apr 14, 2023

11 Basic Math Symbols and How to Use Them (1)

Common math symbols give us a language for understanding, well, everything from budgeting to the nature of reality itself. Its building blocks are relatively simple. Even the most sophisticated mathematical equations rely on a handful of fundamental common math symbols.

Before you can solve the mystery of the Collatz Conjecture, figure out a square root or understand more complex algebraic symbols, you'll need to master the basic mathematical symbols that are necessary for writing a mathematical equation.



  1. Plus Symbol (+)
  2. Minus Symbol (-)
  3. Equals Symbol (=)
  4. Does Not Equal Symbol (≠)
  5. Multiplication Symbol (×)
  6. Division Symbol (÷)
  7. Greater Than/Less Than Symbols
  8. Greater Than or Equal To/Less Than or Equal To Symbols (≥ ≤)
  9. Fraction Symbol (/)
  10. Decimal Symbol (.)
  11. Percent Symbol (%)

1. Plus Symbol (+)

The plus symbol (+) signifies addition. It's the most basic math symbol in the world. When adding two or more numbers, use the plus symbol to indicate that you are combining them. For example, 6 + 3 means you're adding positive number 6 and positive number 3 together. You can also include the plus symbol before a number to indicate that the number is positive, although this is typically redundant — a number on its own is assumed to be positive. Writing "+3" is nonetheless a way of making clear that you're referring to positive 3.


2. Minus Symbol (-)

The minus symbol (-) signifies subtraction. When you're subtracting one number from another, place the minus sign between them. For instance, 6 - 3 shows that you're subtracting 3 from 6. As with the plus symbol, you can place the minus symbol in front of a number to show that it has a negative value. This is much more common, since written numbers are not negative by default. As an example, writing "-3" shows that you're referring to negative 3.


3. Equals Symbol (=)

The equals symbol (=) indicates that the values on either side of the symbol are not approximately equal, but are completely equivalent. In the equation 6 + 3 = 9, the equals sign indicates that the sum of 6 and 3 is equivalent to 9. The equals symbol is an essential part of any math equation.


4. Does Not Equal Symbol (≠)

The does not equal symbol (≠) indicates that two values are not equal. Place this sign between two numbers or mathematical expressions that are not equivalent. For example, 6 ≠ 3 states that 6 is not equal to 3.


5. Multiplication Symbol (×)

The multiplication symbol (×) signifies multiplying something by something else — that is, finding the product of two numbers or, to put it another way, adding a number to itself a certain number of times. Let's make that clear with an example: 6 × 3 = 18 means you're adding three 6s together, resulting in a product of 18. Since the formal multiplication symbol (×) is not common on keyboards, you can use an asterisk (*) or an "x" instead. This is particularly useful when writing computer programs or Excel formulas.


6. Division Symbol (÷)

The division symbol (÷) signifies the dividing of a number. This is the process of splitting a number into a certain number of equal parts. Consider the equation 6 ÷ 3 = 2. In this example, 6 divides into 3 equal groups of 2. Like one of the other key mathematical objects, the multiplication symbol, the formal symbol for division (÷) is uncommon in everyday use. When typing out equations, you can use a forward slash (/) to indicate division. Again, this is necessary for writing equations in computer programming languages.

11 Basic Math Symbols and How to Use Them (2)


7. Greater Than/Less Than Symbols

The greater than symbol (>) and the less than symbol (<) don't have the same meaning, but indicate that one value is greater than another. These symbols function similarly to an equals symbol in between two numbers. For example, 6 > 3 shows that 6 is greater than 3, while 3 < 6 shows that 3 is less than 6. Remember, the larger number always faces the open end of the symbol, while the smaller number always faces the point where the two lines meet.


8. Greater Than or Equal To/Less Than or Equal To Symbols (≥ ≤)

The greater than or equal to symbol (≥) and the less than or equal to symbol (≤) combine the greater than and less than symbols with the equals symbol. They're used to, you guessed it, show when two values are greater (or less) than or equal to each other. This symbol is not very common in everyday usage, and it's most prevalent in equations when one or more quantities is unknown. For example, in the equation X ≥ 3, we know that X can be 3 or any number greater than 3. In this case, 3 ≥ 3 is a true statement, as is 4 ≥ 3, as is 5 ≥ 3, and so on.


9. Fraction Symbol (/)

The fraction symbol (/) appears as a line or slash separating two numbers, one below the other. It can appear in a few different ways. For instance, 3/5 means three-fifths. The 3 at the top of the fraction is in the position of the numerator, and the five at the bottom of the fraction is in the position of the denominator. Fractions show you how many parts of a whole you have; saying that you have 3/5 of a cookie means that if a cookie is divided into five equal parts, you have 3 of those parts. For more complicated math expressions, the fraction symbol appears as a long horizontal line separating the numerator and denominator.


10. Decimal Symbol (.)

A decimal (.) symbol is a period symbol used to separate the whole part of a number from the fractional part of a number. If that sounds a bit confusing, let's take a step back to make sense of it. The number system is based on a system of place value, meaning that the placement of each digit within a number indicates its value. In the number 3.6, the placement of the 3 indicates that is the whole part of the number; the 6 is to the right of the decimal in what we call the "tenths place," meaning it is 6/10 of 1. If you had 3.6 cookies, you would have 3 and 6/10 total cookies. Additional digits after the decimal have their own place value. In the number 3.687, 8 is in the hundredths place, and 7 is in the thousandths place.

11. Percent Symbol (%)

Like the fraction symbol and decimal, the percent symbol (%) is one of the key mathematical objects, useful for showing fractional quantities, in this case specifically as a portion of 100. If you have 36% of your cell phone battery, you have 36 out of 100 units of battery life remaining. "Percent" means "out of one hundred," and since the percent symbol (%) looks like the digits of 100 rearranged, it's easy to remember.

Now That's Mathematical

The plus (+) and minus (-) math symbols were first used in the 14th century by Johannes Widman, the famous German mathematician. He published the first printed book, titled "Mercantile Arithmetic," which used the "+" and "-" signs, in 1489.

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How do you use math symbols? ›

Using symbols to represent mathematical information makes it easier to understand expressions as these symbols show the relationship between quantities.
Common Math Symbols.
SymbolsMeaningMath Symbols Examples
Approximately equal toπ≈3.14
Not equal to5 + 4 ≠ 1
×Multiply5 × 4 = 20
÷Divide10 ÷ 2 = 5
23 more rows

What does ∑ mean in math? ›

The symbol ∑ indicates summation and is used as a shorthand notation for the sum of terms that follow a pattern.

What do the symbols ≤ and ≥ mean? ›

The symbol ≤ means less than or equal to. The symbol ≥ means greater than or equal to.

What order do you use maths symbols? ›

We can remember the order using PEMDAS: Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication and Division (from left to right), Addition and Subtraction (from left to right).

What does ∧ mean in math? ›

Symbol. ∧ or (English symbol name wedge) (mathematics, logic) The conjunction operator, forming a Boolean-valued function, typically with two arguments, returning true only if all of its arguments are true.

What is this symbol Σ? ›

The symbol Σ (sigma) is generally used to denote a sum of multiple terms. This symbol is generally accompanied by an index that varies to encompass all terms that must be considered in the sum. For example, the sum of first whole numbers can be represented in the following manner: 1 2 3 ⋯.

How do you use ∑? ›

The Greek capital letter, ∑ , is used to represent the sum. The series 4+8+12+16+20+24 can be expressed as 6∑n=14n . The expression is read as the sum of 4n as n goes from 1 to 6 .

What is backwards E in math? ›

“In math, the backwards E, ∃, means there exists. ∈ means part of a set. A line through that ∉ means excluded from.

What is the fastest way to memorize math facts? ›

Flashcards are a great no-fuss way to learn math facts. Shuffling a deck makes it easy to mix up the order in which students practice, a learner can study them together with a tutor, a peer, or on their own, and flashcards provide both visual stimuli and a chance for kinesthetic learning.

Which math symbols go first? ›

Parentheses (simplify inside 'em) Exponents (apply them) Multiplication and Division (going from left to right) Addition and Subtraction (going from left to right)

What is the N symbol in math? ›

N denotes the set of natural numbers; i.e. {1,2,3,…}. Z denotes the set of integers; i.e. {…,−2,−1,0,1,2,…}. Q denotes the set of rational numbers (the set of all possible fractions, including the integers).

What does an upside down T mean in math? ›

Perpendicular lines intersect at a right angle. Rather than writing out the words 'parallel' and 'perpendicular,' we use geometric notation. The symbol for two parallel lines is two vertical lines. The symbol for two perpendicular lines is an upside-down T.

What is the little R symbol? ›

The registered trademark symbol, ®, is a typographic symbol that provides notice that the preceding word or symbol is a trademark or service mark that has been registered with a national trademark office.

What are the 4 types of symbols? ›

ideogramRepresents actions, ideas, or concepts
iconRepresents objects and/or their functions
rebusRepresents sounds, words, or parts of words with pictures
phonogramRepresents a spoken sound
7 more rows

What are the four rules of maths? ›

The four basic Mathematical rules are addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Do you add or multiply first? ›

Returning to the above example, the correct answer would be the first answer as it follows the rules of BODMAS: division can be done before multiplication and must be done before addition, and multiplication comes before addition.

What is the correct answer to 3 3x6 2? ›

Question: 3 – 3 x 6 + 2. Multiplication first: 3 – 18 + 2. Left to right: -15 + 2. Answer: -13.

What does ⊕ mean in math? ›

Circled plus (⊕) or n-ary circled plus (⨁) (in Unicode, U+2295 ⊕ CIRCLED PLUS, U+2A01 ⨁ N-ARY CIRCLED PLUS OPERATOR) may refer to: Direct sum, an operation from abstract algebra. Dilation (morphology), mathematical morphology. Exclusive or, a logical operation that outputs true only when inputs differ.

What does ⊢ mean in logic? ›

In mathematical logic and computer science the symbol ⊢ ( ) has taken the name turnstile because of its resemblance to a typical turnstile if viewed from above. It is also referred to as tee and is often read as "yields", "proves", "satisfies" or "entails".

What is the opposite of ∧? ›

Wedge (∧) is a symbol that looks similar to an in-line caret (^). It is used to represent various operations. In Unicode, the symbol is encoded U+2227 ∧ LOGICAL AND ( &and;, &wedge;) and by \wedge and \land in TeX. The opposite symbol (∨) is called a vel, or sometimes a (descending) wedge.

What does epsilon mean in math? ›

The word Epsilon is the Greek letter and it stands (which means) an arbitrary number (smallest possible numbers) and we use it in the algebraic inequality's concepts. We use Epsilon to denote the smallest quantity like a term which is taken as the zero in some limit.

What is the symbol ∑ called? ›

These are symbols that is most commonly used in linear algebra.
NameRead asExample(s)
square root√4=2
38 more rows

What is the Omega symbol? ›

Omega (uppercase Ω, lowercase ω) is the 24th and last letter of the Greek alphabet. In the Greek numeric system, it has a value of 800.

How do you use a semicolon (;) example? ›

John finished all his homework, but Kathleen did not finish hers. Correct: John finished all his homework; Kathleen did not finish hers. Semicolons should not be used between a dependent clause and an independent clause.

Why do I use a semicolon? ›

Use a semicolon between closely related independent clauses which are not joined by a coordinating conjunction. This rule means that semicolons are used between two complete sentences which are not already linked by words like and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet.

What does ∋ mean? ›

However, it is much more common (and less ambiguous) to just abbreviate "because'' as "b/c''. ∋ (the such that sign) means "under the condition that'' and first appeared in the 1906 edition of Formulaire de mathematiques by the logician Giuseppe Peano (1858--1932).

What is the difference between ⊆ and ∈? ›

The symbol /∈ is used to denote that an element is not in a set. For example, π /∈ Z, √ 2 /∈ Q (the second one might take some thought to prove). ⊆ The symbol ⊆ is used to denote containment of sets. For example, Z ⊆ Z ⊆ R.

What is the opposite of ∈? ›

For the relation ∈ , the converse relation ∈T may be written. meaning "A contains or includes x". The negation of set membership is denoted by the symbol "∉". Writing.

What is sticky math? ›

What is Sticky Math? Sticky Math is a fun and new way for your students to practice their math facts in a developmentally appropriate and self motivating way! Students receive a sticky math sheet. The students are racing against THEMSELVES and don't have to share their scores with the rest of the class.

What is the first rule of math? ›

If needed, remind them that in the order of operations, multiplication and division come before addition and subtraction.

What symbol is at most in math? ›

The notation a ≤ b or a ⩽ b means that a is less than or equal to b (or, equivalently, at most b, or not greater than b).

What order should math be taught? ›

The typical order of math courses followed by most students in high school is:
  1. Algebra 1.
  2. Geometry.
  3. Algebra 2.
  4. Trigonometry.
  5. Pre-Calculus.
  6. Calculus.
  7. Advanced Placement Classes.
Apr 15, 2021

What does C mean in math? ›

The Latin small letter c is used in math to represent a variable or coefficient.

What does M mean in math? ›

The meter is the standard unit of measuring length in the International System of Units (SI). Its symbol is “m” and it is one of the seven base units of the SI system.

What does R mean in maths? ›

Rational numbers: These numbers can be written as a ratio of two integers numbers, provided, a non-zero denominator.

What does ⊥ ⊥ mean logic? ›

The up tack or falsum (⊥, \bot in LaTeX, U+22A5 in Unicode) is a constant symbol used to represent: The truth value 'false', or a logical constant denoting a proposition in logic that is always false (often called "falsum" or "absurdum").

What does h mean in math? ›

H and K in Math are simply variables that are commonly used to refer to the vertices of a parabola and circles or used in quadratic equations. They really do not have specific meaning.

What does the 2 lines mean in math? ›

The most common way to represent the absolute value of a number or expression is to surround it with the absolute value symbol: two vertical straight lines. |6| = 6 means “the absolute value of 6 is 6.” |–6| = 6 means “the absolute value of –6 is 6.”

What are the 12 symbols? ›

  • ♈ Aries (Ram): March 21–April 19.
  • ♉ Taurus (Bull): April 20–May 20.
  • ♊ Gemini (Twins): May 21–June 21.
  • ♋ Cancer (Crab): June 22–July 22.
  • ♌ Leo (Lion): July 23–August 22.
  • ♍ Virgo (Virgin): August 23–September 22.
  • ♎ Libra (Balance): September 23–October 23.
  • ♏ Scorpius (Scorpion): October 24–November 21.
Apr 24, 2023

What is the best symbol of love? ›

The Heart: The most popular symbol of love, a heart is used to represent the center of emotion, including affection and love, especially romantic love.

What does € mean in texting? ›

In Statistics Explained articles the symbol '€' should be used for euro in the text if it is followed by a number.

What is a symbol and how it is used? ›

In literature, a symbol is a thing that stands for or represents something else. A symbol might be an object, a mark, an image, a character, a name, or a place—pretty much anything can serve as a symbol. Symbolism is a literary device that uses symbols to imbue meaning in a story.

How do symbol equations work? ›

In a symbol equation, substances are written using their chemical symbol or formula. The formulae of the reactants always go first in a symbol equation. The reactants are separated using a + symbol. After the reactants, there is an arrow → to show that the chemical reaction has taken place.

What is an example of using symbols? ›

Symbolism is the use of a symbol, which can be a word or an image, to communicate a distinct idea. We live in a world full of symbols: Flags, icons, and even colors work symbolically to help us navigate our environments.
  • Butterfly = transformation.
  • Lion = royalty, strength.
  • Swan = grace.
  • Owl = knowledge, wisdom.
Jun 6, 2022

What types of symbols are used? ›

  • pictogram.
  • ideogram.
  • icon.
  • rebus.
  • phonogram.
  • typogram.
  • logo (trade mark)

What is symbol or formula? ›

A chemical symbol designates an element that belongs to the periodic table. A chemical formula combines two or more symbols and it represents a chemical compound.


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