# Why does math have so much greek in it

Can someone help

You’ll probably find out when you take high school math.

Two reasons off the top of my head.
[ol]
[li]Historical: the Ancient Greeks laid the foundations of many fields of mathematics.[/li][li]Practical: the Roman alphabet has only 27 characters, and in any branch of mathematics, some of those have specific meanings. Augmenting this with the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet means that you have more variable names.[/li][/ol]

Maybe it is because the Greeks laid the foundation for mathmatics in the west.

I think that the Ancient Greeks were the first people to study math as a pure science, as opposed to looking for mathematical solutions to real-life problems.

The Greeks used letters of their alphabet to represent values and concepts, such as pi. The mathematicians who followed in their footsteps kept up the tradition.

For what it’s worth, when Roman letters are used in statistics, they represent values calculated for a sample. Greek letters represent estimates for the population represented by sample (I need caffiene; hopefully this makes sense.)

Actually, there are more than 24 characters in the Greek alphabet (and no, I am not counting the capitals separately).

You can include the following, some of which have very specific meaning in mathematical equations:

curly epsilon
curly theta
backcurl delta (partial)
curly phi
final sigma
variant pi
variant epsilon

One reason Greek letters are used instead of your standard Roman alphabet is that some of the Greek letters have special meanings: a capital sigma, for example, stands for summation.

1. I’m inclined to lean toward Podkayne’s “practical” reason: if you’re deriving complicated equations, it’s pretty easy to run out of variables, particularly when many have been pre-assigned (For example, in ME, stress = sigma, strain = epsilon, density = rho, etc.).

2. Also, in more practical mathematics, it’s often preferable to assign intuitive variable names: T for torque, V for velocity, D for diameter, and so forth. If the derivation includes diameter, depth, difference, and distance (for example), then it’s handy to have the capital-delta and small-delta options in addition to d and D.

3. Finally, how much Greek is “so much Greek”? Do you mean, “why does math use any Greek at all?” Or, “why is there more Greek than Roman characters?” Or what? I’d remind you that, of the “big five” mathematical constants (0, 1, i, e, and pi), only one is Greek.

I suspect that it has much more to do with the fonts available in early printing houses. Greek letters were useful alternative symbols which it could be assumed any good printer would possess.

Allow me to reach back to Circuits class and bitch a bit about the “intuitive variable names” in electrical engineering.

We have to deal with capacitance. Okay, we’ll represent that with the letter “c”. Ah, but we also have to deal with current, and we can’t use use the same letter; let’s use “i”. But wait, now we have a conflict with inductance! For that, let’s use the letter “L”. Because, after all, inductance is measured in, um, “henry”, so using “L” makes sense, you see…

Damn, I’m glad I quit that field.

And the winner is…APB!!

Using letters to stand for mathematical variables, or even having much of a symbolic mathematical notation at all, was not a feature of classical Greek mathematics. (There are various mathematical abbreviations in Diophantine and later works, but when Euclid, for example, wants to talk about the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, he doesn’t call it pi, he calls it “the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter”, by gum. Pretty much every damn time.)

Mathematicians in the Renaissance and early modern period, such as Viete and Descartes, on the other hand, began to develop a much more concise symbolic form of expressing mathematical relationships, in which letters stood for quantities. And if you ran out of Roman letters and/or wanted to keep your variables more visually distinct from the text, you reached for a Greek letter. Many early printed books were editions of Greek texts, so you could count on your printer’s having some Greek fonts available. (Another reasonably widespread set of characters were astronomical symbols, which occasionally show up as variables in early printed math books, though only one really caught on: the sort of alpha-looking sign for “is proportional to” isn’t really an alpha but the symbol for the zodiacal sign Taurus, lying on its side.)

Maybe that makes up for the fact that some of the Greek letters look identical to Roman letters: E,Z,H,I,i,K,M,N,O,o,P,T,Y,X . . .

Of course, I thought of that after I posted. . .

Right, which is why some of the capital Greek letters (omicron, for example) aren’t used much in academia, if at all. You don’t want someone reading your paper on Fourier transforms and thinking the O variable is the same as the omicron, etc. Too much confusion! But some of them are confusing anyway. Nu looks like v, both kinda sorta look like upsilon, etc. A lowercase epsilon looks a lot like the symbol for ‘is an element of.’ Those pesky scientists! At least their fellow scientists seem to know what they’re talking about. [Note to actual scientists on this board: I am not intending to slight you! For the last few months, I have been copy editing scientific manuscripts and am just now getting used to your terminology and variable usage. Feel free to correct me, please!]

In fluid mechanics, pressure is often represented by “p”, while density is the Greek lowercase rho. Both fly around in equations of motion quite a bit.

Typeset, it’s usually not a problem telling them apart. Just wait until you get a professor with sloppy board handwriting, though! I’ve had to rely on context clues and, on occasion, dimensions, to understand my notes.