Math Terminology You Should Know for the ASVAB

By Rod Powers

Yes, you must know math for the ASVAB. Some people are intimidated by math in part because it has its own language. You need to know basic math terminology to solve many of the problems you see on the two math subtests that make up the AFQT.

Although you don’t need to know 700 math terms, you should memorize the most common terms because you’re likely to see them used in one way or another on the Mathematics Knowledge subtest or the Arithmetic Reasoning subtest. Here’s some of what you need to know:

  • Average: The average usually refers to the arithmetic mean or just the mean average. To find the mean of a set of n numbers, add the numbers in the set and divide the sum by n.

  • Coefficient: The number multiplied times a variable or a product of variables or powers of variables in a term. For example, 123 is the coefficient in the term 123x3y.

  • Evaluate: Evaluate means to figure out or calculate. If you’re asked to evaluate 5 + 3, that means to simplify the term to 8.

  • Integer: An integer is a whole number that can be expressed without a decimal or fraction component. Examples of integers include 1, 70, and –583.

  • Pi: In mathematic equations and terms, pi is usually expressed by its Greek letter, π. Pi represents the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, and it’s used in several formulas, especially formulas involving geometry. Pi’s value is 3.141592653589793 … (on and on forever), but using the value 3.14 or 22/7 is traditional in common math problems.

  • Prime/composite numbers: A prime number is a positive integer that can only be divided evenly by itself and 1. For example, 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13 are the first six primes. One afternoon, all the famous mathematicians got together over a beer and agreed among themselves that 1 isn’t a prime number.

    Positive numbers that have factors other than themselves and 1 as factors are called composite numbers. Again, by convention, 1 isn’t considered a composite number.

  • Product: The result of multiplication. The product of 2 and 9 is 18.

  • Quotient/remainder: The quotient is the result of division. 40 divided by 5 has a quotient of 8.

    But what if one number doesn’t divide evenly into the other? The remainder is what’s left over in that scenario. 43 divided by 5 has a quotient of 8 and a remainder of 3.

  • Reciprocal: A fraction flipped upside down. The reciprocal of x is 1/x. The reciprocal of 1/x is x.

  • Sum: The result of addition. The sum of 3 and 6 is 9.