Why It’s Maths and Not Math

This post is dedicated to my Kngso, who told me why it’s maths and not math. Because of him, every time I hear math I cringe. Thanks but no thanks? Sigh.


What’s the short form for mathematics? Math. Math. Math.

“The math paper today was so hard!”

“Ugh, I hate math.”

“Math is fun!”

There’s something wrong with all of the above, namely that the short form is wrong.

Dearest Singaporeans and other people who are in British colonies, the short form for mathematics is maths. Why is this so? The standard form of abbreviation for anything should be a few letters off the top of the said word, and the last letter. So MATHEMATICS.

I know you’re thinking: Ah, what on earth was that supposed to mean? She’s talking nonsense as usual. Why can’t I just say math? All my teachers and all my friends say math! Besides, maths sounds so Singlish…

Please continue reading. I promise I will make sense.

Example 1: As I was saying about standard abbreviation, you take the last letter as well. So look at this.


As you should see, all of these titles take the last letter and tag it at the end of the short form, where it used to be on the actual word. Now.

Example 2: Mathematics is not a plural word, meaning that you can’t say “One mathematic, two mathematics” because mathematics in itself is a singular subject. You don’t count mathematics (which is, in a way, ironic because maths involves counting, heh) because it can’t be counted. So shortening it to math without the s is already inherently wrong, because you’re taking out an essential aspect of the word.

Example 3: If that didn’t make much sense to you either, you 1) have a short attention span, and 2) need to look at this:

Think with me: What is the short form of economics?


If you call econs ‘econ’, won’t that sound a little silly?

So why call maths math? It does kinda sound a little silly… (Especially considering that Singaporeans tend to leave out their ‘th’ sound, so math becomes ‘maff’.)

But it sounds so Singlish to say ‘maths’!!!

I shall be patient. Keep thinking with me. Maths is not a Singlish invention. It is, in fact, the way British people abbreviate mathematics. You want to say math? You can move to America where everyone spells everything wrongly and pronounces everything wrongly, but it’s okay because you get to say math without any qualms. Britishly, you should say maths. Our Prime Minister himself said ‘maths’ in his speech before Polling Day. (I know. I was specially listening out to see how he would say it.) If you really want to not sound Singlish, say ‘maths’ the way you would say ‘baths’.

But actually why is there a problem with sounding Singlish? Being Singlish isn’t actually all that bad. We are, after all, Singaporeans, not Americans, so why don’t we say things like Singaporeans? Isn’t that strange, now that you think about it? Because I personally find it strange.

Actually, I think that this post is going to completely fall flat because everyone will read it and go “Ehhh, there goes Sarah again with her weird ideas of how to say and read and spell things. I’m going to continue saying math like I always have.” Sure, you can do that. I’m not expecting some major swing in your heart. I’m just presenting logic where logic is due.

(But if you say maths to me I’ll like you better. Honestly.)


One thought on “Why It’s Maths and Not Math

  1. Of course as always, it’s nice to see your musings about British English…But I started laughing at the part where you typed “say ‘maths’ as ‘baths’! I say baths as bah-ths, so wouldn’t that sound a little weird….? Heh, just a thought.


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