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[Math Musings] WHY MATHS AND NOT MATH?

This is like asking why plural and not singular. I mean, why use plural and not just singular – always. Well, anyone (pretty much) who knows a bit of language grammar will use plural where the reference is to more than one and singular to refer a single item. No brainer here!

So, why do we use the term Math and not Maths to refer to Mathematics. Remember we don’t say or use Mathematic!!

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We all know that Mathematics is a really a body of knowledge related to quantities, figures and forms. It includes a variety of areas ranging from simple Arithmetic and Algebra to complex Calculus and Combinatorics. (BTW, here’s a nice list of all Math(s) areas for those of you who are interested. With a list as large as this, doesn’t it make sense to use a plural term instead of singular? It definitely is more that one!

Well, for my non American readers, all this may sound a bit nonsensical, that because in most other English speaking countries – the UK, India, etc., Maths is the term being used. It is one of the oddities of the American English that allows the term Math to be used to refer something plural – much like the term ‘hair’ or the term ‘fish’ which stay the same for both singular and plural.

In all fairness to the American English, one could also argue that just as a tree has many branches, like Math(s) has / have and yet a tree is singular, so can the word Math! Because Mathematics is a body of knowledge and not many bodies of knowledge, the term should be Math and not Maths!

Having looked at both viewpoints, what’s you take? Which one would you agree?

Well, to sum it up, we shouldn’t really care too much whether it is Math or Maths as long as we are understood. Isn’t that really the purpose of all languages of the world – to make oneself understood?

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