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Math Glossary

ABSOLUTE VALUE—the magnitude of a number, irrespec- ANGLE—two line segments coming together at a point

tive of its sign. Written as a number inside vertical lines: called the vertex.

⏐3⏐=3 and ⏐–3⏐ = 3.

A

ACUTE ANGLE—an angle measuring less than 90°.

A triangle with three acute angles is called an acute

triangle.

and a common vertex.

are also supplementary.)

connected with plus and minus signs. An algebraic

expression is not an equation because it has no equal

sign.

used in calculating the area of a triangle or other polygon.

1 of a full circle’s 360°, the

Because the central angle is

9

1

length of minor arc AB is the circumference.

9

in a plane. Finding the area of a figure invariably involves

multiplying two dimensions, such as length and width, or

base and height.

In the figure above, is an altitude of ΔABC, and G

BD J is

an altitude of parallelogram EFGH.

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Math Glossary

AVERAGE—the sum of a group of numbers divided by the CENTRAL ANGLE—an angle formed by two radii of a circle.

number of numbers in the group. To find the average of

central angle

2, 7, and 15, divide the sum (2 + 7 + 15 = 24) by the

number of numbers (3): 24 ÷ 3 = 8.

A

Total B

Total distance . To get the average speed, don’t O B

speed =

Total time

just average the speeds.

plane.

In the figure above, ∠AOB is a central angle.

x-axis

altitude in calculating the area; a face of a solid, the area

of which will be used with an altitude in calculating the

volume. In the figure above, and

AB are chords of circle O.

AC

Because it passes through the center, is also a

AC

diameter.

distance from a central point. A circle is not a polygon

because it is not made up of straight sides.

circumference of a circle is analogous to the perimeter

of a polygon.

In the figure above,

AC is the base of the triangle, and

CIRCUMSCRIBED—drawn outside another figure with as

circle O is the base of the cone.

many points touching as possible.

BINOMIAL—an algebraic expression with two terms.

The FOIL method of multiplying works only for a pair of

binomials.

half. The bisector of a 90° angle divides it into two 45°

angles.

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Math Glossary

at the other.

the square; d is both a diagonal of the square and a

diameter of the circle.

COEFFICIENT—the numerical or “constant” part of an CONGRUENT—identical; of the same size and shape.

algebraic term. In the monomial –4x2y, the coefficient is Congruent polygons have the same angles and side

–4. In the expression ax2 + bx + c, a, b, and c are the lengths.

coefficients.

CONSECUTIVE—one after another, in order, without skip-

COMMON DENOMINATOR—a number that can be used ping any. The numbers 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, and 21 are

as the denominator for two or more fractions so that they consecutive multiples of 3.

can be added or subtracted. Before you can add the

5 and 5 , you first re-express them with a COORDINATES—the pair of numbers, written inside paren-

fractions

6 8 theses, that specifies the location of a point in the coordi-

5 = 20 and 5 = nate plane. The first number is the x-coordinate and the

common denominator, such as 24:

6 24 8 second number is the y-coordinate.

15 .

24

COSECANT—the ratio of the hypotenuse to the opposite

COMMON FACTOR—a factor shared by two integers. Any leg. The cosecant of ∠A in the figure below is

two integers will have at least 1 for a common factor. hypotenuse 13

= .

opposite 5

COMMON MULTIPLE—a multiple shared by two integers.

You can always get a common multiple for two integers

by multiplying them, though that will not necessarily be 13 inches

the least common multiple.

5 inches

COMPLEMENTARY ANGLES—two angles whose

measures add up to 90°. A 30° angle and a 60° angle 12 inches

are complementary.

hypotenuse. The cosine of ∠A in the figure above is

adjacent 12

= .

hypotenuse 13

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Math Glossary

COTANGENT—the ratio of the adjacent leg to the opposite DENOMINATOR—the number below the fraction bar.

adjacent

leg. The cotangent of ∠A in the figure above is When you increase the denominator of a positive fraction,

12 . opposite

= you decrease the value of the fraction: 7 is less than

5 11

7

.

10

CUBE—a rectangular solid whose faces are all squares.

DIAGONAL—a line segment connecting two nonadjacent

vertices of a polygon. A diagonal divides a rectangle into

two right triangles.

two points on a circle and passing through the center. A

diameter is a chord of maximum length.

difference between 3 and 7 is 4.

CUBE (of a number)—the third power. The cube of a

negative number is negative. DIGIT—one of the numbers from 0 through 9. In the

3-digit number 355, the hundreds’ digit is 3, the tens’

CYLINDER—a solid with two circular ends connected by digit is 5, and the ones’ digit is 5.

“straight” sides.

DISTINCT—different, distinguishable. The number 355 has

2 distinct digits: 3 and 5.

faces.

edge

point. A decimal is equivalent to a common fraction

whose denominator is 10, 100, or 1,000, etcetera.

DEGREE—one 360th of a full rotation. A right angle A rectangular solid has 12 edges.

measures 90 degrees—often written 90°.

ELLIPSE—a set of points in a plane for which the sum of

DEGREE OF AN EQUATION—the greatest exponent in a the distances from two points (called foci) is constant.

single-variable equation. The equation x3 – 9x = 0 is a

third-degree equation because the biggest exponent is 3.

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Math Glossary

quantities. It’s an equation if it includes an equal sign.

relationship between the x- and y-coordinates of every The exterior angles of a regular pentagon each measure

point on the line in the coordinate plane. The equation of 72°.

the x-axis is y = 0, and the equation of the y-axis is x = 0.

FACE—a polygon formed by edges of a solid.

EQUILATERAL TRIANGLE—a triangle with three equal

sides. faces

All equilateral triangles are similar—they all have three 60° no remainder. The complete list of factors of 18 is: 1, 2,

angles. 3, 6, 9, and 18.

numbers includes not only 2, 4, 6, etcetera, but also 0, as the product of simpler expressions. The complete

–2, –4, –6, etcetera. factorization of 2x2 + 7x + 3 is (2x + 1)(x + 3).

EXPONENT—the small, raised number written to the right FRACTION—a number expressed as a ratio. In everyday

of a variable or number, indicating the number of times speech, the word fraction implies something less than 1,

that variable or number is to be used as a factor. In the but to a mathematician, any number written in the form

expression –4x3, the exponent is 3, so –4x3 = –4•x•x•x. A

is a fraction.

B

EXTERIOR ANGLE—the angle created outside a polygon

when one side is extended. The exterior angles of any

polygon add up to 360°.

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Math Glossary

GRAPH OF AN EQUATION—a line or curve in the coordi- IMAGINARY—not real, usually because of the square

nate plane that represents all the ordered pair solutions of root of a negative number. The square root of –4 is an

an equation. imaginary number.

8

and is therefore greater than 1.

quantities. There are four inequality symbols: < (“less

than”), ≤ “(less than or equal to”), > (“greater than”), and

≥ (“greater than or equal to”).

points touching as possible.

= 25.

is a factor of both numbers under consideration. The

greatest common factor (GCF) of relative primes is 1. d

120°

120° 120°

120° 120° of the circle is the same as a length of a side s of the

120° square.

The six angles of a regular hexagon each measure 120°. INTEGER—a whole number; 325, 0, and –29 are integers.

HYPOTENUSE—the side of a right triangle opposite the INTERCEPT—the point where a given line crosses

right angle. the x-axis or y-axis.

hypotenuse

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Math Glossary

y-intercept

x-intercept

x

O

y = –x + 1

The angles opposite the equal sides of an isosceles

triangle are also equal.

The y-intercept is the b in the slope-intercept form LEAST COMMON MULTIPLE—the smallest number that

y = mx + b. is a multiple of both given numbers. The least common

multiple of relative primes is their product.

INTERIOR ANGLE—an angle inside a polygon formed by

two adjacent sides. Every polygon has the same number LEGS (of a right triangle)—the sides that make up the

of interior angles as sides. right angle.

interior angle

108°

108° 108°

108° 108°

You can use the legs as the base and altitude to find the

The interior angles of a regular pentagon each measure area of a right triangle.

108°.

LIKE TERMS—algebraic terms in which the elements other

IRRATIONAL—real, but not capable of being expressed as than the coefficients are alike. 2ab and 3ab are like

a ratio of integers. 2,

3, and π are irrational numbers. terms, and so they can be added: 2ab + 3ab = 5ab.

ISOSCELES TRIANGLE—a triangle with two sides of equal LINE—a straight row of points extending infinitely in both

length. directions. A line has only one dimension.

endpoints. Each side of a polygon is a line segment.

exponent greater than 1. A linear equation is also called a

first-degree equation.

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Math Glossary

MIDPOINT—the point that divides a line segment in half. ODD NUMBER—an integer that is not a multiple of 2.

Any integer that’s not even is odd.

C

In the figure above, B is the midpoint of A , so AB = BC. The origin represents the point (0,0).

MIXED NUMBER—a noninteger greater than 1 written with

distance from a point called the focus and a line called the

directrix.

a whole number part and a fractional part. The mixed

3 parabola

14

fraction .

3

one term.

MULTIPLE (of n)—a number that n will divide into with no focus

remainder. Some of the multiples of 18 are: 0, 18, and

90. directrix

NEGATIVE—less than zero. The greatest negative integer PARALLEL LINES—coplanar lines that never intersect.

is –1. Parallel lines are the same distance apart at all points.

NUMERATOR—the number above the fraction bar. When PARALLELOGRAM—a quadrilateral with two pairs of

parallel sides.

you increase the numerator of a positive fraction, you

13 is greater than

increase the value of the fraction:

17

12

.

17

less than 180°. An obtuse triangle is one that has one

obtuse angle.

Opposite sides of a parallelogram are equal; opposite

angles of a parallelogram are also equal.

135°.

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Math Glossary

straight sides.

Each of the interior angles of a regular pentagon

measures 108°.

PERCENT—one hundredth. 20% means 20 hundredths, or

20 1 polygons, but circles and ellipses are not.

= .

100 5

POLYNOMIAL—an algebraic expression that is the sum of

PERCENT INCREASE/DECREASE—amount of increase or two or more terms. Binomials and trinomials are just two

decrease expressed as a percent of the original amount. A types of polynomials.

decrease from 100 to 83 is a 17% decrease.

POSITIVE—greater than zero. Zero is not a positive

PERIMETER—the sum of the lengths of the sides of a number.

polygon. Two polygons with the same area do not

necessarily have the same perimeter. POWER—a product obtained by multiplying a quantity by

itself one or more times. The fifth power of 2 is 32.

PERPENDICULAR—intersecting at a right angle. The

altitude and base of a triangle are perpendicular. PRIME FACTORIZATION—an integer expressed as the

product of prime numbers. The prime factorization of 60

PI—an irrational number, approximately 3.14, which is is 2 × 2 × 3 × 5.

equal to the ratio of the circumference of any circle to its

diameter. The symbol for pi is π. Pi appears in the formu- PRIME NUMBER—an integer greater than 1 that has no

las for the circumference and area of a circle, as well for factors other than 1 and itself. The first 10 prime numbers

the volumes of a sphere, a cylinder, and a cone. are: 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, and 29. Notice that 2 is

the only even prime number.

POINT—a precise position in space. A point has no length,

breadth, or thickness. PROBABILITY—the likelihood of a particular event,

expressed as the ratio of the number of “favorable”

occurrences to the total number of possible occurrences.

Probability is a part-to-whole ratio and can therefore never

be greater than 1.

and 4 is 12.

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Math Glossary

Corresponding sides of similar figures are proportional.

right triangle, the sum of the squares of the legs is equal

to the square of the hypotenuse.”

3, the quotient is 4.

If you call the lengths of the legs a and b and the length

of the hypotenuse c, you can write “a2 + b2 = c2.”

divide the coordinate plane.

Quadrants

4

radians, which is the same as 135°. It’s no coincidence

3π is also the length of the arc shown.

that

4

When you know the signs of the coordinates, you know

which quadrant contains that point. For any point in

Quadrant IV, for example, the x-coordinate is positive and

RADICAL—the symbol , which by itself represents the

the y-coordinate is negative. positive square root, and with a little number written in—

3

as in —represents a higher root. By convention,

32

QUADRATIC EQUATION—a second-degree equation. represents the positive square root only.

Quadratic equations with one unknown often have two

solutions. RADIUS—(the length of) a line segment connecting the

center and a point on a circle. The radius is half the

QUADRILATERAL—a four-sided polygon. Squares, diameter.

rectangles, parallelograms, and trapezoids are all

quadrilaterals. RATE—a ratio of quantities measured in different units. The

most familiar rates have units of time after the word per,

such as: meters per second, pages per hour, inches per

year.

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Math Glossary

RATIO—a fraction that expresses the relative sizes of two REGULAR POLYGON—a polygon with all equal sides

quantities. A ratio is generally expressed with the words and all equal angles. Equilateral triangles and squares are

“of” and “to”: as in “the ratio of girls to boys.” regular polygons.

integers. The repeating decimal .074074074074 . . . is a

rational number because it can be written as 2 .

27

number because it has a location—somewhere just to the

right of 3.14—on the number line.

RELATIVE PRIMES—positive integers that have no

RECIPROCALS—a pair of numbers whose product is 1. To factors in common. Thirty-five and 54 are relative primes

get the reciprocal of a fraction, switch the numerator and because their prime factorizations (35 = 5 × 7, and 54 =

2 is 7 . 2 × 3 × 3 × 3) have nothing in common.

denominator: the reciprocal of

7 2

REPEATING DECIMAL—a decimal with a digit or cluster of

RECTANGLE—a quadrilateral with four right angles. All

1 is equivalent

digits that repeats indefinitely. The fraction

rectangles are parallelograms, but not all parallelograms

7

are rectangles.

to the repeating decimal .142857142857142857. . . ,

which can be written as .12

8

5

7

.

rectangles.

RHOMBUS—a quadrilateral with four equal sides.

rectangular solids

REDUCING A FRACTION—expressing a fraction in lowest RIGHT ANGLE—an angle measuring 90°. A rectangle is a

6

terms by factoring out and canceling common factors. polygon with four right angles.

8

reduces to 3.

4 RIGHT TRIANGLE—a triangle with a right angle. Every right

triangle has exactly two acute angles.

number of times will yield the given quantity. The third

root of 8 is 2.

lengths. A 3-4-5 triangle is a scalene triangle.

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Math Glossary

SECANT—the ratio of the hypotenuse to the adjacent leg. SINE—the ratio of the opposite leg to the hypotenuse.

The secant is the reciprocal of the cosine.

13 inches

13 inches 5 inches

5 inches

12 inches

12 inches

5 .

In the figure above, the sine of ∠A is

13

13 .

In the figure above, the secant of ∠A is

12

SLOPE—a description of the “steepness” of a line in the

SECTOR—a region bounded by two radii and an arc. Change in y

coordinate plane, defined as . Lines that go

Change in x

“uphill” (left to right) have positive slopes, and lines that

slope of 0.

line 1 slope = 1

line 2 slope = 0

9

360°, the area of the shaded sector is 1 of the area of

9

the whole circle.

polygons have the same angles.

line 3 slope = –1

y = mx + b. In this form, m is the slope and b is the y-

intercept. Line 1 in the figure above has a slope of 1 and

a y-intercept of 4, so its equation is y = x + 4. Line 2’s

equation is y = 4. Line 3’s equation is y = –x – 3.

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Math Glossary

from a central point. Visualize a sphere as a ball.

TERM—a part of an algebraic expression that either stands

SQUARE—a quadrilateral with four equal sides and four by itself or is connected to other terms with plus and

right angles. A square can be thought of as a rectangular minus signs. A term has three parts: the coefficient, the

rhombus. variable(s), and the exponent(s).

SQUARE ROOT—a number that when squared yields the TRANSVERSAL—a line that intersects two parallel lines.

given quantity. Positive numbers each have two square

roots, but negative numbers have no real square roots.

add up to 180°.

SURFACE AREA—the sum of the areas of the surfaces of a A transversal across parallel lines creates two sets of four

solid. Surface area is measured in square units. equal angles.

SYSTEM OF EQUATIONS—two or more equations in TRAPEZOID—a quadrilateral with one pair of parallel sides.

which each variable represents the same quantity in one

equation as in another.

to the adjacent leg.

exactly one point. Visualize a tangent as a line that just

barely “touches” the circle.

TRIANGLE—a three-sided polygon. The three angles of a

triangle add up to 180°.

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Math Glossary

UNDEFINED—not covered by the rules. Division by 0 is VERTICAL ANGLES—angles across the vertex of

undefined. intersecting lines. Vertical angles are equal.

unspecified quantity. The letter most commonly used

for a variable is x.

rectangular solid or a polygon.

∠ p and∠ r.

within a solid. Computing volume invariably involves

multiplying three dimensions, such as length, width, and

height.

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