basic math in chinese

How to Do Basic Math in Chinese

Numbers are among the first Chinese words that you’ll learn, so it makes sense to learn how to do basic math in Mandarin. After all, percentages and decimals are all part of daily life—just ask anyone who shops regularly

Read this guide for essential math terms in Chinese, advanced vocabulary and plenty of examples. There’s a quiz too at the end to get practicing right away.


Starter Math Vocabulary

As a warm-up, here are some simple Chinese math words: 

数字 shù zìnumber
数学 shù xuémath
偶数 ǒu shùeven (number)
奇数 jī shùodd (number)
小于 xiăo yúless than
大于 dà yúgreater than

Here’s how they’d work in sentences:

3 和 11 是奇数, 4 和 12 是偶数。
sān  shí yī shì jī shù, shí èr shì ǒu shù.
3 and 11 are odd numbers, 4 and 12 are even numbers.

10 小于 24 但是大于 8。
shí xiǎo yú èr shí sì dàn shì dà yú bā.
10 is less than 24 but greater than 8.


Let’s get into the actual math! First off, addition: 

加法 jiā fǎ addition
jiāto add
等于 děng yúto equal
总数 zǒng shùsum total

Now, try your hand at a few basic addition statements in Chinese:

1 加 1 等于 2
yī jiā yī děng yú èr.
1 plus 1 equals 2.

10 加 6 等于 16。
shí jiā liù děng yú shí liù.
10 plus 6 equals 16.

5 加 3 的和是 8
wǔ jiā sān de hé shì bā。
The sum of 5 and 3 is 8. 

Just like in English, you can see that it’s pretty straightforward!


Here are some must-know words for subtraction: 

减法 jiǎn fǎsubtraction
jiǎnto subtract
差数 chā shùdifference
被减数 bèi jiăn shùminuend
减数 jiăn shùsubtrahend

Subtraction has a similar format as addition, with 等于 followed by the resulting number at the end:

8 减 5 等于 3
bā jiǎn wǔ děng yú sān.
8 minus 5 equals 3.

55 减 32 等于 23
wǔ shí wǔ jiǎn sān shí èr děng yú èr shí sān.
55 minus 32 equals 23.

如 7 减 4 等于 3,则 7 为被减数,4为减数
rú qī jiǎn sì děng yú sān, zé qī wéi bèi jiǎn shù, sì wéi jiǎn shù.
In 7 minus 4 equals 3, 7 is the minuend, and 4 is the subtrahend.


Getting the hang of it already? Here’s some vocabulary for multiplication: 

乘法 chéng fǎ multiplication
乘以 chéng yǐ times/multiply by
乘积 chéng jī product

Take a look at these multiplication math problems:

5 乘以 11 等于 55
Wǔ chéng yǐ shí yī děng yú wǔ shí wǔ.
5 times 11 equals 55.

20 乘以 10 等于 200
èr shí chéng yǐ shí děng yú liǎng bǎi.
20 times 10 equals 200.

6 乘以 8,乘积是 48
liù chéng , chéng jī shì sì shí bā.
Multiply 6 by 8, the product is 48. 

You can shorten 乘以 to  (chéng):

3 乘 4 等于 12
sān chéng sì děng yú shí èr.
3 times 4 equals 12.


Finally, these are the most common Chinese words for division: 

除法 chú fǎdivision
除以 chú yǐto divide by
商数 shāng shùquotient
余数 yú shùremainder

Here’s how you can use these division vocabulary: 

30 除以 10 等于 3
sān shí chú yǐ shí děng yú sān.
30 divided by 10 equals 3.

77 除以 7 等于 11
qī shí qī chú yǐ qī děng yú shí .
77 divided by 7 equals 11.

25 除以 6,商数是 4,余数是 1
èr shí wǔ chú yǐ liù, shāng shù shì sì, yú shù shì yī.
Divide 25 by 6, the quotient is 4 and the remainder is 1.


Learning how to talk about fractions (and percentages) in Chinese might not seem like it should be a priority yet. But actually, that’s far from the truth.

Every time a cashier rings up your purchase and tells you how much you owe—every time you listen to the GPS spout directions as you drive, telling you how many miles/kilometers until your next turn—you hear one of these tiny numbers.

Let’s look into fractions:

分数 fēn shùfraction
分之 fēn zhī(indicates a fraction)
二分之一 èr fēn zhī yī1/2
三分之一 sān fēn zhī yī1/3
四分之一 sì fēn zhī yī1/4
四分之三 sì fēn zhī sān3/4
三分之二 sān fēn zhī èr2/3

You’ll notice that fractions follow a specific format:

[total amount] + 分之 + [smaller amount] 

While these fractions are correct, though, you wouldn’t use them when talking about quantities as we do in English. For example, when trying to say “two and a half hours,” you wouldn’t say 两个二分之一 (liǎng ge èr fēn zhī yī xiǎo shí).

Here are the same numbers, but how you’d use them in conversations and when talking about quantities:

一刻 yī kèone quarter
三刻 sān kèthree quarters

Even time can be expressed with these. For example, 10:15 would be 十点一刻 (shí diǎn yī kè).


Decimals are among the easiest to learn in this section, as they follow the same pattern they do in English:

[number] + (diǎn) + [number]

For example:

一点五 (yī diǎn wǔ) = 1.5

五点六 (wǔ diǎn liù) = 5.6

二点三 (èr diǎn sān) = 2.3

For decimals with multiple numbers behind the point, you’d treat it similar to how we pronounce each digit in a year. For example:

零点二五 (líng diǎn èr wǔ) = 0.25

一点三四 (yī diǎn sān sì) = 1.34


The word for percentage in Chinese is 百分之 (bǎi fēn zhī), which literally means 100 separate. Unlike in English, the number comes after the word “percentage” (百分之) rather than before:

百分之一百 bǎi fēn zhī yī bǎi100%
百分之五十 bǎi fēn zhī wǔ shí50%
百分之二十五 bǎi fēn zhī èr shí wǔ25%
百分之十 bǎi fēn zhī shí10%

Advanced Math Vocabulary

There are tons of Chinese math vocabulary out there, so here’s a sampler of Chinese math terms that go beyond the basics (and which you’re more likely to encounter in classes rather than everyday life):

算术 suàn shùarithmetic
代数 dài shùalgebra
微积分 wēi jī fēncalculus
几何 jǐ hégeometry
公式 gōng shìformula
方程 fāng chéngequation
数学习题 shù xué xí tímath problem
整数 zhěng shùwhole number, integer
负数 fù shùnegative number
指数 zhĭ shùexponent
四舍五入 sì shĕ wŭ rùto round off

Practice Quiz

To wrap everything up, let’s review what you’ve just learned with a quiz!

Try translating the following into Chinese:

1. ¥16.73

2. 5 1/2 apples

3. ¥8.40

4. 5 times 3 equals 15

5. ¥7.00

6. 1 plus 1 equals 2

7. 2 minus 1 equals 1

8. 25%

9. 20 divided by 4 equals 5

10. 1.75

Ready for the reveal? The answers are:

1. 十六块七毛三分 (shí liù kuài qī máo sān fēn) — ¥16.73

2. 五个半苹果 (wǔ gè bàn píng guǒ) — 5 1/2 apples

3. 八块四毛 (bā kuài sì máo) — ¥8.40

4. 5 乘以 3 等于 15 (wǔ chéng yǐ sān děng yú shí wǔ) — 5 times 3 equals 15 

5. 七块 (qī kuài) — ¥7.00

6. 1 加 1 等于 2 (yī jiā yī děng yú èr) — 1 plus 1 equals 2

7. 2 减 1 等于 1 (èr jiǎn yī děng yú yī) — 2 minus 1 equals 1

8. 百分之二十五 (bǎi fēn zhī èr shí wǔ) — 25%

9. 20 除以 4 等于 5 (èr shí chú yǐ sì děng yú wǔ) — 20 divided by 4 equals 5

10. 一点七五 (yī diǎn wǔ) — 1.75

As you can see, all of these follow a pretty consistent format!

You can find more quizzes and exercises on FluentU. Its Chinese learning program allows you to look up math-related vocabulary in its multimedia dictionary, with grammar info and video examples included.

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Just like math, new vocabulary in Chinese might take some getting used to, but with enough practice, they’ll become second nature (and as simple as 1 + 1 = 2).

Whether you’re looking at store discounts, listening to the news or even planning to study math in Chinese, basic Chinese math terms will pop up, so get to know them and watch your understanding of Chinese expand!

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