Chinese Maths Vocabulary

If you’ve learned how to count in Chinese, you may want to learn some  common maths terminology. In this post I will go through some maths basics, such as how to say plus, minus, equals, and may other terms.

Chinese write maths as we do in English, that is with numerals and maths symbols. For example 1+1 = 2 and 4÷5 carry the same meaning in Chinese and English – after all maths is he universal language.

There are two situations where knowing the Chinese characters and pronunciation for maths is useful. Firstly as you know how to write numbers and maths symbols as words in English, you should know how to write the same numbers and maths symbols as words in Chinese. As an example, the maths equation 1+1=2 can be written in English words as “one plus one equals two”. In Chinese the same 1+1=2 maths problem would be written in Chinese words as jiāděngèr. Keep in mind that it would be as unusual in Chinese to write a maths problem with Chinese characters as it is for an English speak to write out a maths problem in words such as “one plus one equals two”.

Secondly, if you want to speak a maths problem out loud you need to know how it is pronounced, as you can hardly read it in English. Using the 1+1=2 example, this is written as jiāděngèr and pronounced as “yī jiā yī děngyú èr”. Thus when you see the equation 1+1=2, you would read this out loud as “yī jiā yī děngyú èr”; broken down is one (yī) plus (jiā) one (yī) equals (děngyú) two (èr).

So to recap:

  • Chinese uses the same numerals and maths symbols as English
  • You need to know the Chinese pronunciation for numbers and maths symbols if you are going to read them out loud
  • It is unlikely but still useful to know how to write maths in words

If you haven’t yet learned numbers, please check out my post on how to count in Chinese.

Chinese Pronunciation of Maths Symbols

Below is a table showing common maths symbols and how they are pronounced in Chinese:

Symbol Chinese Pronunciation (Pinyin)
+ jiā jiā
jiǎn jiǎn
÷ chú chú yǐ
x chéng chéng
= děng děngyú

Below are examples of simple maths calculations to illustrate how the above symbols are used. I have shows the maths with mixed numbers and Chinese characters to make it clearer which character corresponds to which mathematical symbol.

Numerals Mixed Chinese and Numerals Chinese Pinyin Pronunciation
1+1=2 11ssttrroonngg>>jiā//ssttrroonngg>>11děng22 ssttrroonngg>>jiā//ssttrroonngg>>děngèr jiā yī děngyú èr
31=2 33ssttrroonngg>>jiǎn//ssttrroonngg>>11děng22 sānssttrroonngg>>jiǎn//ssttrroonngg>>děngèr sān jiǎn yī děngyú èr
8÷2=4 88ssttrroonngg>>chú//ssttrroonngg>>22děng44 ssttrroonngg>>chú//ssttrroonngg>>èrděng chú yǐ èr děngyú sì
2x3=6 ssttrroonngg>>22chéng//ssttrroonngg>>33děng66 liǎngssttrroonngg>>chéng//ssttrroonngg>>sānděngliù liǎng chéng sān děngyú liù

How to say fractions in Chinese

In Chinese the word for fraction is fēnzhī, which is pronounced as “fēn zhī “. To write a fraction in Chinese you simply use the fēnzhī character and write the fraction in reverse. For example 2/3 becomes 33fēnzhī22 and 1/5 becomes 55fēnzhī11. Note that I am mixing words and numbers here for clarity, in reality if you are using numerals and symbols, you don’t need to use the Chinese words for maths, so as previously described, 1/3 carries the same meaning in English and Chinese.

To explain fēnzhī and the numerator after; if that doesn’t make sense to you don’t worry, just remember that you write the fraction in the reverse of English.

The table below demonstrates the use of fēnzhī:

Fraction Chinese Pronunciation (Pinyin)
1/2 bàn yībàn
1/3 sānfēnzhī sān fēn zhī yī
2/3 sānfēnzhīèr sān fēn zhī èr
1/4 fēnzhī sì fēn zhī yī
3/4 fēnzhīsān sì fēn zhī sān
1/5 fēnzhī wǔ fēn zhī yī
2/5 fēnzhīèr wǔ fēn zhī èr
3/5 fēnzhīsān wǔ fēn zhī sān
4/5 fēnzhī wǔ fēn zhī sì
45/70 shífēnzhīshí qī shí fēn zhī sìshíwǔ

Note that 1/2 is written as “one half”, that is bàn. Although èrfēnzhī is a valid way of writing 1/2, in the same way that “one over two” is correct in English, you are far more likely to just say “one half”; this is the same in Chinese where “yībàn” (bàn) is the way you would normally say 1/2.

Literally fēnzhī means divided, or more specifically fēn means to divide and zhī is the equivalent of de, indicating possession. Simply put fēnzhī just means divided; alternatively you may want to think of fēnzhī as meaning “in to”, so 33fēnzhī22 means “3 in to 2” (2/3) and 1100fēnzhī77 means “10 in to 7” (7/10).

How to write percentages in Chinese

The first point to understand about writing percentages in Chinese is you can express them mathematically using numbers followed by percent sign (%) exactly as you do in English e.g. 7%, 54%, 150% etc. This is the normal way or writing percentages in just about any language.

Percentage Chinese Pronunciation (Pinyin)
7% bǎifēnzhī bǎi fēn zhī qī
54% bǎifēnzhīshí bǎi fēn zhī wǔshí sì
150% bǎifēnzhībǎishí bǎi fēn zhī yībǎi wǔ shí

Secondly, if you want to write a percentage in Chinese words or read a percentage aloud, just append he Chinese word for percent in front of the number. The Chinese word for percentage is bǎifēnzhī, which is pronounced as “bǎi fēn zhī”. So in English while you would say “seven percent”, in Chinese this would be “bǎi fēn zhī qī” (bǎifēnzhī) where “qī” () is the Chinese word for seven. Some examples:

So what does bǎifēnzhī mean? If you understand fractions, you will know this means a fraction of 100, thus in Chinese when you say percent you are actually saying “over one hundred”. Let me demonstrate this is the table below:

Percentage Expressed as a fraction over one hundred Written in a mixture of numerals (numbers) and the word for fraction 分之 Written entirely in Chinese characters
7% 7 / 100 100 分之 7 bǎifēnzhī
54% 54 / 100 100 分之 7 bǎifēnzhīshí
150% 150 / 100 100 分之 7 bǎifēnzhībǎishí

Algebra – Chinese Language Vocabulary

If you are doing more advanced maths in Chinese, you may wonder how to say and write words like “cosine”, “to the power of” or “squared” to name but a few. The table below provides the Pinyin pronunciation and the Chinese words for a number of terms you will likely come across in Algebra:

English Maths Term Chinese Pronunciation (Pinyin)
tan zhèngqiē zhèngqiē
cosine xián yúxián
sine zhèngxián zhèngxián
to the power of duì......deliang duì… de lìliàng
e.g 2^10 = 2 duì 10 de lìliàng
Pythagoras’ theorem dìng bì dá gē lā sī dìnglǐ
squared píngfāng píngfāng

Geometry – Chinese Language Vocabulary

Below is a list of Chinese words used in geometry that you may find useful if you are doing maths in Chinese:

English Chinese Pronunciation (Pinyin)
acute angle ruìjiǎo ruìjiǎo
angle jiǎo jiǎodù
chord xián xián
circumference zhōu zhōu
diameter zhíjìng zhíjìng
equilateral triangle děngbiānsānjiǎoxíng děng biān sānjiǎoxíng
hexagon liùbiānxíng liù biān xíng
Isosceles triangle děngyāosānjiǎoxíng děng yāo sānjiǎoxíng
line 线xiàn xiàn
line segment 线xiànduàn xiànduàn
obtuse Angle dùnjiǎo dùnjiǎo
octagon jiǎoxíng bā jiǎoxíng
parallel píngxíng píngxíng
parallel line segments píngxíng线xiànduàn píngxíng xiànduàn
parallel lines píngxíng线xiàn píngxíng xiàn
parallelogram píngxíngbiānxíng píngxíng sìbiānxíng
pentagon jiǎolóu wǔjiǎodàlóu
pentagon jiǎolóu wǔjiǎodàlóu
point diǎn diǎn
radius bànjìng bànjìng
rectangle chángfāngxíng chángfāngxíng
rhombus língxíng língxíng
right angle zhíjiǎo zhíjiǎo
scalene triangle děngbiānsānjiǎoxíng bù děng biān sānjiǎoxíng
square 广guǎngchǎng guǎngchǎng
star (shape) xīngxíng xīng xíng
tangent qiē线xiàn qiēxiàn
triangle sānjiǎoxíng sānjiǎoxíng
vertex dǐngdiǎn dǐngdiǎn


Please feel free to look at my other article on counting in Chinese. If you are interested in learning or improving your Chinese, I’ve spent some time selecting what I consider to be the best top ten resources for learning Chinese here.