15 terms you'll see on your child's maths homework – and what they mean



We’ve all been there. The little ones ask for some help with their homework, you confidently agree but as soon as you pick up the worksheet you can barely understand the question – let alone figure out the answer.

But fear not. If you’re trying to wrap your head around maths terminology, you’re not alone. We’ve put together a guide of 15 common words you’re likely to see on your child’s homework and – more importantly – what they mean.

So sharpen your pencil and dig out the protractor because we’re going to help you over this homework hurdle.

1. Geometry

Okay so we’ve all heard of it but what exactly is geometry? It’s not actually too complicated. Put simply, geometry is the study of lines, angles, shapes, and their properties. Geometry studies physical shapes and the object dimensions.

Flat-like squares, circles, and triangles are a part of flat geometry and are called 2D shapes. These shapes have only two dimensions – the length and the width. Solid objects are also known as 3D objects having the third dimension of height or depth.

2 . Algebra

It’s not something you’d find in the lingerie aisle in M&S – algebra is the branch of mathematics that substitutes letters for numbers to solve for unknown values. Remember this sort of thing at school: x-2 = 4. When you don’t know the number, you use a letter instead (because it’s way easier than drawing a blank box).

3. Pythagoras

You might think it’s a dish available at your local Greek restaurant but it’s something just as tasty for maths lovers. Pythagoras’ theorem is a formula you can use to calculate the length of any of the sides on a right-angled triangle or the distance between two points. Might also be accompanied by “hypotenuse” (the longest side of a right-angled triangle, always opposite to the right angle itself.)

4. Calculus

While it may sound like a medical condition for something that grows on your foot, calculus is the branch of mathematics involving derivatives and integrals. It’s the study of motion in which changing values are studied and anyone who masters it is, quite frankly, rather clever.

5. BEDMAS

This is an acronym used to help people remember the correct order of operations for solving algebraic equations. BEDMAS stands for “Brackets, Exponents, Division, Multiplication, Addition, and Subtraction”. You might also see PEMDAS which stands for “Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction”.

6. Pi

We’ve all studied it at school and it probably makes you hungry every time you see the world but it’s nothing to do with food. Pi is used to represent the ratio of a circumference of a circle to its diameter and is denoted with the Greek symbol π.

7. Nth root

You could be forgiven for thinking this is something to do with the date or even a tooth extraction but it’s not. The nth root of a number is how many times a number needs to be multiplied by itself to achieve the value specified.

So – the 4th root of 3 is 81 because 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 = 81.

8. Algorithm

It’s the sort of word that sends shivers down spines but keep calm and breathe because it’s not all that bad. It’s actually a posh word for a procedure or set of steps used to solve a mathematical computation.

9. Coefficient

This has nothing to do with whether you work well in a team. The coefficient is a letter or number representing a numerical quantity attached to a term (usually at the beginning).

For example, x is the coefficient in the expression x (a + b) and 3 is the coefficient in the term 3y.

10. Congruent

Put simply, congruent is objects and figures that have the same size and shape. Congruent shapes can be turned into one another with a flip, rotation, or turn. See? Maths doesn’t have to be complicated!

11. Fibonacci

If you know what this means, it’s the sort of knowledge that could work well in a pub quiz. A Fibonacci sequence is a sequence beginning with a 0 and 1 whereby each number is the sum of the two numbers preceding it. So, for example, “0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34…” is a Fibonacci sequence.

12. Hyperbola

It sounds like some tropical disease but it’s a type of conic section or symmetrical open curve. The hyperbola is the set of all points in a plane, the difference of whose distance from two fixed points in the plane is a positive constant.

13. Isosceles

If you’re a whizz at geometry, you’ll have learned about this – it’s a polygon with two sides of equal length. Weirdly, we always think of pizza when we are picturing it in our head.

14. Median

The median is the “middle value” in a series of numbers ordered from least to greatest. When the total number of values in a list is odd, the median is the middle entry. When the total number of values in a list is even, the median is equal to the sum of the two middle numbers divided by two.

15. Prime

We might only use this when we’re referring to good old Amazon TV but teachers use it because prime numbers are of huge importance in maths.

Prime numbers are integers greater than 1 that are only divisible by themselves and 1 – such as 2, 3, 5, 7, and 11.





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