Even the most common terms used in math can be confusing. As such, we’ve created a simple breakdown of some of the most common vocabulary terms found in math word problems, broken down by mathematical function. Of course, we couldn’t fit every single term in here, but we’ve created a comprehensive list to help students study and complete math word problems in their homework.
Addition: Increase, more, and, combined, together, both, total, sum, in all, plus, add, perimeter
Subtraction: Decrease, subtract, minus, less, fewer, reduced, difference, change, between, remain, used, how many more/less, how many are left
Multiplication: Of*, per*, each/every*, by, double, triple, quadruple, twice, times, multiplied, product, area
Division: Of*, per*, each/every*, out of, ratio, fraction (& half, third, fourth, etc), quotient, percent
Equals: Is, are, was, were, will be, gives, results, yields, same as, equal to, equivalent,
- >: More than, greater
- <: Less/fewer than, under
- ≥: At least, minimum, lowest, smallest
- ≤: At most, no more than, maximum, most, biggest
Exponent: Power, squared, cubed
Variable: What, unknown, a number (I usually use “n” instead of the more common “x” so as to not confuse it with a multiplication sign)
* Look at the context of the question to determine if multiplication or division is required.
More Tips for Math Word Problems
Usually, you can just go in order of the sentence, translating the words into math terms one at a time.
A number multiplied by 9 is 3 more than the product of 5 and 7.
n x 9 = 3 + 5 x 7
one-third of 15 is equal to the quotient of 21 and what?
⅓ x 15 = 21 / n
The ratio of 9 more than x to x is the same as twice x.
(9 + x) / x = 2x
20% of 160 is equivalent to 25 minus and unknown
.2 x 160 = 25 – n
NOTE: convert a percent to a decimal before using it in a math equation by moving the decimal backwards twice (“to the left, to the left”).
Some expressions, like “less than” need to be written in reverse order in the math equation.
7 less than what number gives 19? n – 7 = 19