MATH TRIVIA

When is a billion not a billion?

Did you know that the American system for naming large numbers is not the same as the British system? What we call a billion, they call a thousand million. And what they call a billion, we call a trillion! And it continues from there. After a million, we do not agree on any of the names for large numbers. The chart below summarizes the differences.

Number
Power
of 10
American
Name
British
Name
1,000
103
thousand
thousand
1,000,000
106
million
million
1,000,000,000
109
billion
thousand million
1,000,000,000,000
1012
trillion
billion
1,000,000,000,000,000
1015
quadrillion
thousand billion
1,000,000,000,000,000,000
1018
quintillion
trillion

As you can see, Americans name their numbers based on powers of 10 that are multiples of 3, while the British name theirs based on multiples of 6.


What’s it called?

Every symbol has a name. Some are better known than others. Here are four of the less well-known ones. Do you know what they're called? On the left are the symbols along with their common names. On the right are the mathematical names, but not necessarily in the right order. Do you know which goes with which? When you think you know, click on the ANSWER button.