I've been asked to give lectures on electromagnetism in English, but I encounter many problems trying to express mathematical formulas since they are written and I do not know how to read them. Are there any references which elaborate the formulas and express what should we call any mathematical sign?

  • I'm not sure if I would call this off-topic, but I think you might be able to get better answers at math.stackexchange.com, although I'm not sure they would find it on topic. – yoozer8 Oct 19 '11 at 13:46
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    I think they might hate it. – Marcin Oct 19 '11 at 13:57
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    I've voted to reopen and asked a question on meta.math whether this kind of questions is on-topic there. – Mehper C. Palavuzlar Oct 19 '11 at 17:46
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    Can the people who closed this give a justification? This is a question about pronunciation that one cannot find in dictionaries. – Phira Oct 19 '11 at 21:07
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    I agree with you Phira – Prelude Oct 26 '11 at 6:49

The following references are useful:

  • @Negin: You're welcome. Glad I could help. – Mehper C. Palavuzlar Oct 19 '11 at 14:54
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    Also: mathematicians are used to international speakers, and will understand things said in different ways. It won't matter if you read "x/2" as "x over 2" or "x upon 2", they have probably heard them both before. Or if Z is called "zee" or "zed". Now if Y is called "eegrek" they may smile... – GEdgar Oct 19 '11 at 15:01

There's a certain amount of variation in how signs are denoted in speech, not least that given signs may have a different meaning in context (simple example: a superscripted number is usually a power, but it might not be).

You're best asking a colleague who is a mathematician who was educated at, or has a long association, with the institution where you will be lecturing, and knows the standard conventions there.


If you're concerned about this, I am afraid you are likely to bore your audience to tears. Describing mathematical equations orally is rarely effective. You would be much better off to provide a hand-out with a numbered list of all equations you wish to discuss, and refer to them by number.

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    Please don't do this! My guess is, James has never attended a math talk for and by mathematicians :) – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez Oct 19 '11 at 17:48
  • Actually... oh, heck, just check out the bio on my profile. – James McLeod Oct 19 '11 at 22:43

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