some maths expression

Hi there! I am learning English and I wonder how to read this maths expression in English.

  • can you identify a particular issue? Can you read this in your native language? Are there any simpler expressions that you can read, can you read any part of this expression? Please show us some details!
    – James K
    Dec 5, 2019 at 21:38
  • yeah, I can read this expression in Russian. Dec 6, 2019 at 6:56
  • great.... now translate part by part until you get stuck.... so the first thing is "a" Can you say the name of that letter in English? Yes? Great! The next part is "²" Can you say that in English? No? Okay now you have a specfic question to ask. This is what I mean by "can you identify the particular issue" and "Please show us some details".
    – James K
    Dec 6, 2019 at 7:21
  • Скобка открывается, а в квадрате минус двадцать пять поделить на на а плюс три, скобка закрывается умножить, на скобка открывается, один поделить на а в квадрате плюс пять а, скобка закрывается, минус, скобка открывается, а плюс пять поделить на а в квадрате минус 3 а, скобка закрывается Dec 6, 2019 at 7:50
  • Here is a translation of this expression into Russian Dec 6, 2019 at 7:51

1 Answer 1


This expression is difficult to say unambiguously in English (or probably any natural language); mathematical notation is an artificial language designed to be exact within a much more limited domain than is covered by natural language. There is nothing in English like the rule of construing mathematical notation called PEMDAS in US schools. Of course, any mathematical expression can be stated exactly in English if you are very wordy. For the relatively simple expression shown as your example, here goes a rendering that is probably about as concise as possible:

The fraction a squared minus twenty five all over a plus three plus the fraction one over a squared plus five a minus the fraction a plus five all over a squared minus three a.

That will probably be interpreted correctly by most numerate speakers of American English if you are careful to indicate that the numerators of two of the fractions are a difference and a sum respectively. If you want to be absolutely sure of being understood by someone with mathematical training, you can combine the terms fraction, sum, difference, numerator, denominator, minuend, and subtrahend to duplicate the mathematical notation exactly, but the result will be a long paragraph. For example, you can describe

the first fraction, which has a numerator that is a difference, with a minuend of a squared and a subtrahend of twenty five, and with a denominator that is the sum of a and three

Thus, you can describe exactly each fraction in detail that way and put them together as

The expression is a difference. The minuend of the entire expression is the sum of two fractions. The first fraction in that sum is __. The second fraction in that sum is __. The subtrahend of the entire expression is the fraction __.

To conclude, brief descriptions in English of anything more than very simple mathematical expressions have a material probability of being at least somewhat ambiguous. Use the universal language of mathematical notation if you want to avoid any possibility of ambiguity.


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