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First Year Science Numbers and symbols

2 Numbers, symbols and mathematical operations in English

In this section you will answer:

How to read out a number in English

How to pronounce mathematical operations

The standard prefixes for multiples of ten

2.1 Cardinal numbers


Cardinal numbers are also known as the counting numbers:
0 zero (nought) 10 ten 20 twenty (a score)
1 one 11 eleven 30 thirty
2 two 12 twelve (a dozen) 40 forty (no "u")
3 three 13 Thirteen (a baker’s dozen) 50 fifty (note "f", not "v")
4 four 14 fourteen 60 sixty
5 five 15 fifteen (note "f", not "v") 70 seventy
6 six 16 sixteen 80 eighty (only one "t")
7 seven 17 seventeen 90 ninety
8 eight 18 eighteen (only one "t") 100 one (a) hundred

Between twenty and fifty we use a hyphen (“-“) to join the two words together when the
second digit is not zero:
21 twenty-one
25 twenty-five
32 thirty-two
58 fifty-eight
64 sixty-four
79 seventy-nine
83 eighty-three
99 ninety-nine
Then hundreds and thousands are regular, with the number of hundreds or thousands with
the word hundred or thousand afterwards (but always SINGULAR)
100 one hundred (or a hundred)
200 two hundred
900 nine hundred

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First Year Science Numbers and symbols

1,000 one thousand (or a thousand)


2,000 two thousand
10,000 ten thousand
11,000 eleven thousand
20,000 twenty thousand
21,000 twenty-one thousand
30,000 thirty thousand
85,000 eighty-five thousand
100,000 one hundred thousand
999,000 nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand (British) nine hundred ninety-nine
thousand (American English)
1,000,000 one million (or a million)

2.1.1 Marking the thousands


Notice that in Italian we use the full stop to indicate thousands:
For example (eg.) la populazione di italia è 54.900.000
But in English the population of Italy is 54,900,000
When we read out the number we don’t say the comma (“54 million, nine hundred thousand”)
SI (Système international d'unités) uses a thin space between the numbers, so the
population number would become 54 900 000.

Ex. 1 Say to your partner the following numbers:


Student A Student B
67 89
152 384
15 203 89 304
26 562 321 87 521 312

2.2 Ordinal numbers


These are the numbers we use for putting things in order, like the days of the month or
runners in a race.
1st first 7th seventh
nd th
2 second 8 eighth
3rd third 9th ninth
4th fourth 10th tenth
th th
5 fifth 11 eleventh
th th
6 sixth 12 twelfth

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First Year Science Numbers and symbols

The “teen” numbers (yes, this is where teenager comes from) use “th” at the end eg. 16th is
sixteenth.
The same thing for multiples of ten, but replace a “y” with “ieth”. Eg. twentieth or fortieth.
All other numbers use the cardinal number, but the last word is replaced with the ordinal
number, so that 325th is three hundred and twenty-fifth, or 111th is one hundred and
eleventh.
There is another type of ordinal number which we use for precedence or effect (as we do in
Italian). Here are the first three: Primary, secondary and tertiary.

Ex. 2 Say to your partner the following numbers:


Student A Student B
11th 13th
121st 256th
63rd 61st
1024th 2203rd

2.3 Decimals
Let’s look at the number Pi (π) = 3.14159....
In Italian we use the comma (,) as the marker for decimals, but in English we use the full stop
(.) and we say “point”
So in English Pi(π) = 3.14159... “three point one four one five nine”. (Note that after the
decimal place we say each number in turn).

2.4 Fractions
For most fractions we use the ordinal numbers, with exceptions for ½ and ¼.
½ a half
1/3 a third (2/3 two thirds)
¼ a quarter (3/4 three quarters)
1/5 a fifth (2/5 two fifths)
...etc.

2.5 Nominal numbers


We often use numbers as names, think of a telephone number, bank code, a date or a
postcode.
For dates like 1987 we break it into two numbers and say “nineteen eighty seven”. This
doesn’t work well with dates from 2001-2009 where we say it like a number.
All other nominal numbers can be read like this as pairs of numbers or just one at a time, but
a 0 can be read as “zero” or “oh” and two numbers the same as “double”:
61023 – six one oh (zero) two three. 007 – double oh seven

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First Year Science Numbers and symbols

Ex. 3 Say to your partner the following numbers:


Student A Student B
63.2554 37.8951
5/7 7/12
61032 47921
2008 2010

2.6 Mathematical operations (Maths)


Here is a table of how to pronounce some of the common mathematical symbols
Operation Formula Pronounced in English as:
Addition Add 2 and 2 2+2=4 Two plus two equals four

Subtraction or Subtract or take 2 8–2=6 Two minus two equals six


from 8
taking away

Multiplication Multiply 2 by three 2x3=6 Two times three equals six

Division Divide 12 by 3 12 / 3 = 4 Twelve divided by three equals


four
(or 12 ÷ 3 = 4)

2.7 More mathematical terms


Here are some more mathematical terms that are useful
square 22 Two squared

to the power of 3 83 Eight to the power of three


rd
3 power Eight to the third power
Eight to the three
take the square root √2 Square-root of two

3
take the cubed root √2 Cubed root of two

nth
take the nth root √2 nth root of two (eg. fourth root...)
- 2+(6/3) Two plus, open brackets six divided by
three, close brackets

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First Year Science Numbers and symbols

- 3 x 108 Three times ten to the eight metres per


ms-1 second
- π Pi (sounds like “pie”)

2.8 Subscript and superscript

Superscript
t
Iv Subscript

2.9 Multiples of 10 and the SI prefix


There are two versions of large numbers in English, called the long and the short scale – we
will only use the short scale because it is one the most used now, but be careful when
reading older books.
Multiples of ten Number (short SI Prefix Symbol
scale)
10-9 One billionth Nano- n
-6
10 One millionth Micro- μ
-3
0.001=10 One thousandth Milli- m
-2
0.01=10 One hundredth Centi- c
0.1 = 10-1 Tenth Deci- d
10 Ten Deca- da
2
100 = 10 Hundred Hecto- h
3
1 000=10 Thousand Kilo- k
1 000 000=106 Million Mega- M
1 000 000 000=109 Billion Giga- G
1 000 000 000 000=1012 Thousand billion Tera- T
15
10 Billion billion Peta- P

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First Year Science Numbers and symbols

Exercise in Numbers and symbols


For those sitting on the left (or in front) of their partner
Questions for you to read out to your Your answers to the questions Letter from
partner: your partner reads out: table below

1) 1)
a) 6 + 6 – 2 =
a)
b) 32 – 14 =
b)
c) 3 x 12 ÷ 4 =
d) 3 x (3 + 4 – 6 / 3)= c)

e) 32 – 1 = d)

e)

2) Tell your partner to multiply six by 2)


three and subtract the square of
two.

3) Tell your partner to divide twelve by 3)


four and add fourteen

4) √25= 4)

5) 2 x 23 - 1= 5)

6) Tell your partner to take the square 6)


root of nine

Look up your answers on this table to find a corresponding letter:


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Z D G Q W O L R U Y

11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
V J N E A M S O P C

21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
R X K I H F B P D M

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First Year Science Numbers and symbols

Exercise in Numbers and symbols


For those sitting on the right (or behind) of their partner
Questions for you to read out to your Your answers to the questions Letter from
partner: your partner reads out: table below

1) 1)
a) 5 + 11 – 6 =
a)
b) 22 – 4 =
b)
c) 6 x 6 ÷ 4 =
d) 5 x (3 + 4 – 8 / 2)= c)

e) 42 – 8 = d)

e)

2) Tell your partner to multiply six by 2)


five and subtract the square of four.

3) Tell your partner to divide ten by two 3)


and add fifteen

4) √36= 4)

5) 33 - 9 = 5)

6) Tell your partner to take the square 6)


root of fourty-nine

Look up your answers on this table to find a corresponding letter:


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Z D G Q W O L R U Y

11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
V J N E A M S O P C

21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
R X K I H F B P D M

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