BlogMathThe Most Important Math Symbols Students Need to Solve Problems

    The Most Important Math Symbols Students Need to Solve Problems

    Math symbols are versatile representations of concepts, ideas, and numbers, that can be used to express relationships between quantities. They can be used across different types of equations and form a universal language of mathematics that can be referenced anytime. Students can also learn to solve more complex math equations by having an intuitive understanding of the value of symbols, such as pi, roman numerals, division, fractions, etc. 

    Why do We Use Mathematical Symbols?

    African-American student pointing on math symbols on board

    Math symbols are used in a variety of ways to help extract maximum value from equations, calculations, and formulae. They make it easier to define math quantities, as well as develop a relationship between quantities that can be expressed in a unique way. They help us create a logical sequence that can be used to represent any physical event.

    Symbols are also used to denote a predefined value, such as pi or Euler’s constant. They are used to provide a consistent standard, as well as simplify calculations that require the use of these numbers regularly. Symbols remain unchanged over the course of time, making them the best way of representing an idea or standard to use for any calculation.

    You can also use symbols to create a foundation of base knowledge for students. Math symbols, such as the equals signs, greater than sign, brackets, and parenthesis, form much of the preliminary working knowledge of all complex math equations. Students should be able to become comfortable with symbols to become confident in solving math problems.

    Math symbols also make referencing much easier, as you can go back to these symbols to figure out the relationship between quantities. From derivatives to logarithms, every symbol holds a history of information that can be used to solve math equations. They can be used across languages as they are a consistent reference for any mathematician around the world.

    Basic Math Symbols

    Blackboard with math symbols and graphs math symbols

    Let us start with the basic math symbols used to express relationships between quantities.

    1. Addition (+) used to add two numbers. 9+10 = 19

    2. Subtraction (-) is used to subtract one number from another. 11-2 = 9

    3. Equals (=) are used to express two values being the same. X = 33

    4. Approximation (≈) used to denote approximate equalness. π (pi) ≈3.14

    5. Not equal to (≠) used to express non-equalness. 15 ≠ Z

    6. Multiplication (x) is used to multiply two numbers. 12 x 2 = 24

    7. Division (÷) is used to divide one number from another. 15 ÷ 5 = 3

    Learn more common math symbols here.

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    Set Theory and Venn Diagram Symbols

    Set theory and representation of Venn diagrams are key to problem-solving.

    1. Intersection (∩) denotes common numbers between sets.

    2. Union (U) denotes the unification of two sets.

    3. Equality (A = B) denotes equal elements in both sets.

    4. Cartesian product (A X B) is used to denote sets of ordered pairs.

    Access more set theory and Venn diagram symbols here.  

    Roman Numerals Math Symbols

    You may also come across Roman numerals, especially within complex math equations.

    1. I is a Roman numeral with the value of 1. II = 2

    2. V is a Roman numeral with the value of 5. V = 5

    3. X is a Roman numeral with a value of 10. XX = 20

    4. L is a Roman numeral with a value of 50. L = 50

    For more Roman numerals click here.

    Non-Varying Math Constants

    You may also have to use math constants from time to time, which can be expressed as below.

    1. Square root of two (√2) used as a positive number with an approx. value of 1.41421.

    2. Euler’s constant (e) is used as a base of the natural logarithm.

    3. Pi (π) is used as a symbol to denote the ratio of circumference to diameter of a circle.

    4. Imaginary unit (i) used as a root of negative 1 to denote complex numbers.

    Access more math constants and what they mean here.

    Algebra Math Symbols

    Algebraic expressions math symbols

    Algebraic symbols are one of the most used symbols in math and science.

    1. Variables (x, y) used to denote placeholders for variable numbers. x = y + 10.

    2. Proportional to (∝) used to indicate a proportional relationship. X ∝ y ⟹ x = ky

    3. Addition (+) used to add variables. 2x + 3y = 4z

    4. Functional map f(x) used to denote a function. f(x) = 2x – 9

    Know more algebra math symbols here.

    Need more help in solving algebraic equations? Help children gain an intuitive understanding of the subject, click here.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    What does ∈ ø mean in math?

    The symbol means that an element of that set is an object that is contained within it. It is used extensively in set theory and is a key mathematical symbol used to describe the relationship.    

    What does U mean in math?

    When two sets have a union, it can be used to represent itself as a U. There are values present in each set that can be united using the symbol “U”. You can learn more about unions by visiting SplashLearn’s math games.

    What is x and y in mathematics?

    Lowercase letters can be used to denote variables in math. The letters x and y are widely used as common variables that can be expressed to help solve a problem. They are also used in more complex equations to establish a base standard for finding unknown quantities.

    What is the big E symbol used in math?

    Q. What is the big E symbol used in math?

    A. The Σ (sigma) sign is used to denote a summation of multiple elements. It is also used widely in mathematics and is a core symbol that all students should be familiar with intuitively.

    How do I improve my child’s understanding of symbols?

    Direct instructional methods may not be impactful as symbols are abstract and denote relationships between quantities. You can use games, online learning platforms, and video tools to help kids visualize what a symbol represents. Different characters, such as pi, imaginary constant, and roman numerals, can also be demonstrated with visual aids.


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