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Dear Mitch,

My Grandma took me to Disneyworld for my birthday.   And while we were there we met this really cool kid who was in 4th grade (I'm in 3rd grade), except instead of living in this country, he was from England!  He came with his family all the way from England because he always wanted to go to Disneyworld, and the trip was a present for him too, because his birthday was on the exact same day as my birthday!  Anyway, he said that in England they don't call math "math".  He said they call it "maths", and I thought he was joking, especially since I never heard that before, but his older brother said it was true.  Well, they were joking a lot and telling us a lot of silly things about England, just to see what the craziest thing was that they could make up and get me to believe me.  Can you tell me, though, is it true that in England they call math "maths"?  If it is true, why do they call it that?




Dear Caroline,

Happy Birthday!

Yes, the boy you met from England was telling you the truth. 

In England, they speak English (of course!!), but it is not always exactly the same as the English we use in America.  For example, in England there are many words that mean the exact same thing that they mean in the United States, but are spelled differently there, like the word color is spelled "colour", and the color gray is spelled "grey".   They also have some different words for some things.  For example, instead of "apartment" they say "flat", and they call soccer "football".  And, just like the boy told you, instead of saying "math", people in England say "maths".  I have family and friends who live in England, and they think "math" sounds funny, because the way that is most familiar to a person and the way the person learned first usually sounds right to that person, and it could take some time for your mind to adjust to a new way.  The reason they call it "maths" is because although "math" is the way the people of the United States have shortened the word "mathematics" (which ends with an s), the people of England decided to shorten it to "maths".  If you think about it, math (or "maths") really refers to many different topics, and some are very different from others.  For example, geometry (lines and shapes and angles and things like that) seems very different from arithmetic (the four basic operations:  adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing), so sometimes I think "maths" seems like a better word for all the different topics.  Also, "maths" is more like "mathematics" than just "math".  But, usually, I only start to prefer the word "maths" to "math" AFTER I've been in England for a few weeks.  So, like I said, very often, when there are little differences like that, the one you are more used to is the one that is more likely to sound right to you.

And that's that.

Hope that helps!

Yours truly,