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Math Symbols
© 2006

If you have forgotten what they mean...

Or never knew what they were in the first place...

New math - Bah, Humbug! Unfortunately, more and more technical articles are being written by people with a newer education than I possess. In the 1950's, there was no such thing as <. I know there wasn't because I was there and I paid (at least a little) attention. Ok, Ok, I did really poor in math, but I know that sometime during those horrible years of 2 + 2 = 4, I would have remembered <.

Heck, I would have used it because it is charmingly "vague". What is 3 + 5 - 1? My answer: < 4. I'm right, up to a point. Ok, technically it's wrong, but you get my drift. New signs and symbols are used now that I never learned and if I did ever learn, I have forgotten.

π: I remember this one because when we first learned it I thought we were having Greek food in school. I didn't find out I was wrong for 6 more grade levels. What's it for, anyway?

Here's a cheat sheet for all of you out there who use such things. I know there are more of us out there than admit to it. Come on, print it out and hide it. I won't tell.

SymbolWhat it isHow it is readHow it is usedSample
*MultiplicationTimesProduct of two values3 x 5 = 15
MultiplicationTimesProduct of two values3 • 5 = 15
±Plus/minus signPlus or minusExpression of range, error or tolerance500 kbps ± 10%
/SlashDivided by OverDivision3 / 4 = 0.75
÷Division SignDivided byDivision3 ÷ 4 = 0.75
~Similarity SignIs similar toIndicates 2 objects are geometrically similarABC ~ DEF
<Inequality signIs less thanIndicates left value is smaller than right value3 < 5, X < Y
Inequality signIs less than or equal to...
Is at most equal to
Indicates left value is smaller than or equal to right valueX ≤ Y
>Inequality signIs greater than Indicates value on left is larger than value on right5 > 3, X > Y
Inequality signIs greater than or equal toIndicates left value is larger than or equal to right valueX ≥ Y
π Greek pi (lowercase)piGeneral scienceπ = 3.14159...