Can You Identify Even 11 of These Mathematical Symbols?

By: Lauren Lubas
Can You Identify Even 11 of These Mathematical Symbols?
Image: Pekic/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

While many of us know the basics of math (1+1=2), and we pride ourselves in knowing what some of the symbols represent, few realize that there are dozens upon dozens of these symbols, all representing different things. From addition and division to exponents and percent symbols, it's time to test your mathematical skills across the board.

Sure, you might know that an equal sign is two parallel lines on top of each other, but what is the name for the symbol that is three parallel lines on top of each other? If you know the answer to this question, you might just have a fighting chance at passing this quiz. 

We are going to show you 40 different symbols used in various forms of math. We want to know if you can name them. Don't worry; you don't have to know what each symbol does (not for this quiz, at least). We'll tell you all about each of the symbols and in which branch of math you're most likely to find them.

Do you think you have what it takes? Take a look at all of the symbols we found and see if you can tell us what they are.

1 - Equal Two parallel lines is the symbol for what?
Equals
Although we see this symbol in nearly every math equation, some people might have a difficult time identifying it. However, when you read the expression or equation out loud, you will definitely hear the name of the symbol.
Approximately equal
Equal by definition
Calculate this expression first

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2 - subtraction sign What should you do if you see this symbol?
Add
Multiply
Subtract
The subtraction sign might be a very easily recognizable mathematical symbol. It is one of the first symbols we are taught in elementary math, and it's as simple as a single horizontal line.
Divide

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3 - not equal sign If an equal sign has a slash through it, what is it called?
Strict inequality
Not equal sign
If two variables are not equal to each other, you will probably see this symbol between them. Although this symbol is used mainly in more advanced math and theory, it is sometimes seen in algebra.
Plus sign
Parentheses

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4 - greater than sign A sideways caret like this stands for what?
Less than
Equal to
Greater than
While many coders out there might see this as the beginning of a command, in math, it means something completely different. This little caret tells us the relationship between two numbers or variables.
Multiply

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5 - division symbol A minus sign with a dot above and below it is known as what?
Addition symbol
Modulo
Exponent
Division symbol
Just like multiplication, there are several symbols for division. These include the symbol you see here with a single horizontal line that has a dot above and below it and a back slash that separates two numbers.

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6 - plus sign Do you know what this math sign is?
Greater than or equal to
Both plus and minus
Plus sign
The plus sign might be one of the most recognizable mathematical symbols around. It is just a cross section of two lines. It seemingly shows that two things are brought together, much like being added to each other.
Division

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7 - asterisk While this symbol is used outside of math, it is also a math symbol. What is it?
Asteroid
Astersign
Square root
Asterisk
While the asterisk in most writing points to something that you should pay attention to, the asterisk in math is to show multiplication. There are several signs for multiplication, and this is one of them.

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8 - caret The arrow pointing up between a and b in a^b is known as what?
Caret
Carets are used to represent exponents. In this case, a^b means "a to the b power," so if a = 3 and b = 2, the equation would be 3^2=9. Symbols like this were used to show work when it wasn't possible to make subscript.
Power dot
Cube root
Degree

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9 - Line segment What does the line of AB stand for?
Infinite line
Line segment
The line above A and B stops, it doesn't have arrows that tell you if it continues in one direction or both. This means that you are looking at a line segment that begins at A and ends at B.
Parallel line
Congruent line

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10 - right angle Do you know what this L-shaped symbol means?
Obtuse angle
Arc
Right angle
There are several symbols for angles, but this one shows that the angle is a right angle. All right angles are 90 degrees. This symbol can help you determine a lot of the measurements within a triangle that you're looking at.
Perpendicular line

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11 - degree symbol Can you decipher this little circle?
Spherical angle
Similarity
Triangle
Degree
Although you may be used to seeing the degree symbol on things that measure temperature, in math, it used to help measure angles. It's often seen in geometry and advanced analytic geometry.

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12 - Arc What does the curved line over AB mean?
Arc
When you see the arc symbol above two letters, the number that it is equal to is generally found in degrees. The two letters are considered points on a circle, and every two points on a circle create an arch.
Distance
Pi
Radians

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13 - Parallel A symbol that has two vertical lines means what?
Perpendicular
Parallel
It makes sense that the symbol for parallel would be two parallel lines, but those lines do have to be vertical. If they were horizontal, you would get the equal sign, and that could get confusing.
Pi
Double prime

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14 - Less than Do you think you know what this symbol stands for?
Greater than
Subtraction
Division
Less than
There are several symbols in mathematics that show us the relationship between two numbers or variables. If you're ever mixed up by the greater than or less than symbol, draw teeth on the open end, and remember that the alligator always likes to eat the biggest number.

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15 - Angle What are you looking at if you see this symbol?
Degree
Angle
A simple angle symbol tells the mathematician that the angle in this situation has not been solved or measured. If this symbol had an arch connecting the two lines, it would be considered a measured angle.
A measured angle
A right angle

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16 - Pi Do you recognize this common geometric symbol?
Theta
Kappa
Pi
There are several constants in math. These are symbols that have a specific value given to them. Pi is the symbol for ratio of a circle's circumference as compared to its diameter. It equals approximately 3.14.
Omega

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17 - Lemniscate What is the actual name for the infinity symbol?
Side 8
Theta
Grad
Lemniscate
While there is no specific number assigned to the infinity symbol, it is a great way to give infinity a value that allows you to create equations and expressions without having to guess a number.

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18 - Floor brackets These brackets that don't have a top are known as what?
Floor brackets
When you see floor brackets in an equation, you should always round that number to the lower integer. For example, if you see floor brackets around 5.8, you should round this number down to 5.
Down brackets
Small brackets
Half brackets

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19 - Absolute value Do you know what it means if you see two vertical lines around a number or variable?
Sigma
Absolute value
When you see something like this: | 6 |, you should always take the absolute value of the number within the equation. The absolute value of a number could be different than the number you see. For example, the absolute value of -7 is 7.
e constant
Set

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Multiply
For math beginners, a great way to understand multiplication to to think of it as a faster way to add things. For example, 3X3 is the same as 3+3+3, because you are adding three to itself three times.
Divide
Subtract
Absolute value

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21 - Both plus and minus If you see this interesting symbol, what does it mean?
Both multiplication and division
Both plus and minus
For those of you who have taken advanced algebra, you probably recognize this symbol as a part of the quadratic formula. The symbol is also used to make approximations more precise.
Division
Subtraction

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22 - Multiplication What does this dot between two numbers mean?
Division
Calculate this expression first
Multiplication
In algebra, there are times when using the X for the symbol of multiplication can be a little confusing to those reading equations. In this case, the dot is generally used to show that two numbers or variables need to be multiplied.
Exponent

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23 - Percent Do you recognize this symbol?
Square root
Division slash
Times sign
Percent
Percent symbols are seen throughout various sciences, and are often used in the results of mathematical equations. Percent means for every 100. This symbol is used to reduce the number of characters needed to convey a result.

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24 - Square root Can you identify this interesting symbol?
Square root
The square root symbol might be the most interesting one used in math. It is almost like a check mark with an extended tail that covers whatever number needs to be rooted. While this action can be difficult for those just starting out in math, it becomes a little easier with practice.
Percent
Period
Power

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25 - Spherical angle When an angle sign is at an angle like this, what does it stand for?
Notated angle
Understated angle
Spherical angle
Angles are interesting, and they can be found just about anywhere you look. While many people don't think that spheres have angles, when you connect the radius to another radial point, you create an angle with the focus (center) of the circle.
Unknown angle

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26 - Per-mille Do you know what this odd sign means?
Percenting
Percent
Angular percentage
Per-mille
Percent means parts per one hundred. Therefore, per-mille means parts per thousand. This symbol is often used in a lot of chemistry equations, as the numbers are so small that using a percentage isn't necessarily helpful.

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27 - The distance between a and b What does it mean when you see something like this: |a-b|?
The distance between a and b
Seeing two variables between long verticle lines is generally showing the distance between then. This helps you get a greater understanding of where these two points land on a grid or chart.
The difference between a and b
The variables between a and b
Both a and b are equal

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28 - Triangle Can you guess what this symbol stands for?
Circle
Triangle
If you thought this one was a trick question, we understand. While many symbols in math might look difficult, some of them are very transparent. In the case of the triangle symbol, you might see it next to three variables next to each other. This shows that the three variables make the triangle.
Square
Angle

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Approximation
While some believe that all math is finite and set in stone, some math is definitely not. There are theoretical aspects to math that have not been completely solved yet, so it's important to incorporate symbols that show this.
Addition
Equal to
Degree

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30 - Parts per million Can you guess what ppm stands for?
Parts per mille
Parts per million
While we understand the percent and per mille signs, there are still other mathematical symbols that represent even lower numbers that can be found in a solution. Remember that the higher the "per" is, the smaller the actual value of the number is.
Press paper mile
Punctuate, produce and multiply

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31 - Ray What does the arrow over two variables stand for?
Angle
Vortex
Ray
A ray is a line that starts at one point (or the first variable beneath the ray symbol) and continues on. The starting point of the ray is called the endpoint, but the ray continues on to infinity.
Wavelength

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32 - Infinite line Do you know what this symbol means?
Line segment
Similarity
Right angle
Infinite line
You may be wondering why there are two variables under the infinite line symbol. This is to show you the direction of the line. A straight line only needs two points to give you a direction, even if it is infinite.

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33 - Not equal to Three parallel lines on top of each other symbolize what?
Not equal to
Equivalent
While it looks dangerously close to an equal sign, the sign for an equivalence relationship is usually used in geometry. It shows that two figures are identical to each other without having to show the equation.
Multiply then divide
Divide then multiply

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34 - An intersection The arch between A and B in this image represents what?
A disection
An intersection
Intersections are generally used in mathematical theory. When you see a mathematical phrase like this, it translates to everything element that is in A that also belongs in B, but nothing else.
A subsection
A union

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35 - Union In mathematical theory, what does the U symbol mean?
United
Unbroken
Union
The best way to describe a union is to think about marriage: what's mine is yours and what's yours is mine. A union in mathematical theory is everything that is in the sets of A and B.
Ubiquitous

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36 - Division In basic math, what does the backslash mean?
Multiplication
Addition
Subtraction
Division
Much like the look of a fraction, this division symbol tells you that you should divide these numbers to get a number to finish your equation. The symbol actually means the same thing in a fraction, but some choose to keep the fractions as they are.

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37 - The cubed root If you see this sign, what are you looking at?
The square root
The sum
The cubed root
If you thought the square root symbol was fun, then you would probably love the cubed root. It is rare that someone can find the solution to a cubed root without the help of technology of some sort.
Plus and minus

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38 - Factorial What does the exclamation point mean in mathematical terms?
Multiply twice
Double the sum
There is no exclamation point.
Factorial
Factorials can be rather confusing if you don't build a strong math base before you attempt them. It's best to start with positive numbers. So, the factorial for a positive integer is the product of all of the positive integers less than or equal the original integer. Like we said ... it's best to build a strong math base before attempting them!

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39 - Calculate this expression first. Do you remember what these parentheses mean?
Calculate this expression first.
If you ever wondered why you always got those weird meme equations with pictures of fruit wrong, it could be because they have parenthetical expressions in them. Many forget to solve what is in the parentheses first.
Calculate this expression last.
Don't calculate this expression.
This expression is less than zero.

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40 - Squared If there is a 2 floating above a number or variable, what does it mean?
Cubed
Squared
When a number is squared, it doesn't necessarily mean to multiply it by 2, it means to multiply it by itself. The only time you would multiply this number by 2 is if the number itself was 2.
Doubled
Divided by 2

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You Got:
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