Both math and maths are short for the word
. Math is the preferred term in the United States and Canada. Maths is the preferred term in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and other English-speaking places.
The word math can refer to either the discipline or subject of mathematics. It can also refer to mathematical procedures. In a sentence like “She enjoys studying math and science,” the word math refers to the subject or discipline of mathematics. In the sentence, “She insisted on seeing his math so she could understand his proposal,” math refers to actual calculations.
Maths has the very same definition as math. If you substitute maths into any of the above examples, the sentences mean the exact same thing. For example: “He loves school, but he especially enjoys maths.”
Math vs. maths
The only difference between math and maths is where they’re used. Like we said earlier, speakers of American and Canadian English use math, while speakers of British, Irish, and Australian English favor maths.
There’s no real logical explanation as to why math became preferred in some places while maths was elsewhere. The usual argument goes that mathematics is plural because it ends in an -s, so maths should be its abbreviation. The problem is that, while it ends in an –s, mathematics is a mass noun and usually takes a singular verb (e.g.,
Mathematics is my best subject”).
Both of these words date back to the turn of the 20th century. There are examples of math in writings from the 1840s, and of maths from the 1910s.
British vs. American English
In some cases, British and American English use different words for the the same concept. For example, American English speakers use the words truck, shopping cart, and sweater; British English speakers say lorry, trolley, and jumper to mean the same things.
In other cases, the differences between British and American English words are much more subtle. For instance, American English uses the term racecar, while British English uses the word racing car.
In still other cases, British and American English words differ by just one letter, as in the case of math and maths. British English includes –u– in the spelling of French-derived words, such as colour or favourite, which American English omits.
This also happens with the words sport and sports. In American English, you’d say “I enjoy playing sports, and I also like watching sports.” In British English, this sentence would be “I enjoy playing sport, and I also like watching sport.” This time, it’s American English that likes the –s!