Science, Tech, Math › Math A Guide to Every Math Symbol and What It Represents Learn what these seemingly random notations mean Share Flipboard Email Print ThoughtCo / Nusha Ashjaee Math Resources Math Tutorials Geometry Arithmetic Pre Algebra & Algebra Statistics Exponential Decay Functions Worksheets By Grade View More By Deb Russell Math Expert Deb Russell is a school principal and teacher with over 25 years of experience teaching mathematics at all levels. our editorial process Deb Russell Updated July 01, 2019 Math symbols—often tiny, indecipherable, and seemingly random—are all-important. Some math symbols are Greek and Latin letters, dating back centuries to ancient times. Others, like the plus, minus, times, and division symbols seem to be mere notations on a paper. Yet, symbols in math are essentially the instructions that drive this area of academics. And, they have true value in real life. A plus sign (+) can tell you if you are adding cash to your bank account, while a minus sign (-) may indicate trouble ahead—that you are subtracting funds and possibly in danger of running out of money. Parentheses, which in English punctuation indicate that you're inserting a nonessential thought into the sentence—mean just the opposite in math: that you should work whatever is within those two punctuation marks first, and only then do the rest of the problem. Read on to see what the common math symbols are, what the represent, and why they're important. Common Math Symbols Here is a list of the most common symbols used in mathematics. Symbol What It Represents + Adding sign: Often referred to as the plus sign or the addition sign - Subtracting sign: Often referred to as the minus sign x Multiplication sign: Often referred to as the times or times table sign ÷ Division sign: To divide = Equal sign | | Absolute value ≠ Not equal to ( ) Parenthesis [ ] Square brackets % Percent sign: Out of 100 ∑ Big sum sign: Summation √ Square root sign < Inequality sign: Less than > Inequality sign: Greater than ! Factorial θ Theta π Pi ≅ Approximately ∅ Empty set ∠ Angle sign ! Factorial sign ∴ Therefore ∞ Infinity Math Symbols in Real Life You use math symbols more than you realize in all areas of your life. As noted above, the difference between a plus or minus symbol in banking can indicate whether you're adding a wealth of funds to your bank account or in withdrawing funds. If you've ever used a computer accounting spreadsheet, you likely know that the big sum sign (∑) gives you an easy—indeed instant—way to add an endless column of numbers. "Pi," which is denoted by the Greek letter π, is used throughout the world of math, science, physics, architecture, and more. Despite the origins of pi in the subject of geometry, this number has applications throughout mathematics and even shows up in the subjects of statistics and probability. And the symbol for infinity (∞) not only is an important math concept, but it also suggests the infinite expanse of the universe (in astronomy) or the infinite possibilities that come from every action or thought (in philosophy). Tips for Symbols Although there are more symbols in math that are indicated in this list, these are some of the more common ones. You'll often need to use HTML code in order for the symbols to show up online, as many fonts do not support the use of mathematical symbols. However, you'll find most of these on the graphing calculator as well. As you progress in math, you'll begin to use these symbols more and more. If you plan to study math, it will be well worth your time—and indeed save you an infinite (∞) amount of this valuable resource—if you keep this table of math symbols handy. Cite this Article Format mla apa chicago Your Citation Russell, Deb. "A Guide to Every Math Symbol and What It Represents." ThoughtCo, Aug. 29, 2020, thoughtco.com/common-mathematic-symbols-2312232. Russell, Deb. (2020, August 29). A Guide to Every Math Symbol and What It Represents. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/common-mathematic-symbols-2312232 Russell, Deb. "A Guide to Every Math Symbol and What It Represents." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/common-mathematic-symbols-2312232 (accessed September 21, 2021). copy citation How to Insert Arrow Symbols on Your Web Page Photo Gallery of Cemetery Symbols and Icons Importance of the Math Concept Area Learn the Greek Alphabet With These Helpful Tips The 8 Best Scientific Calculators of 2021 How to Overcome Math Anxiety Math Glossary: Mathematics Terms and Definitions The Truth About Government Grants Common Keyboard Symbols Symbols of the Greek God Apollo An A-to-Z History of Mathematics Prepare for College With High School Math A Poem by Emma Lazarus Changed the Meaning of Lady Liberty Map Scale: Measuring Distance on a Map Probability and Chance Do My Grades Really Matter?