**This is Day 30 of 31 Days of Math Learning Success. Follow all the days here and check out others that are writing for 31 days here.**

*Often, the idea that there can be a wide range of translations of one text doesn’t occur to people – or that a translation could be bad, very bad, and unfaithful to the original.
~Lydia Davis*

When we say “five more than eleven,” we often write .

But really, eleven was there first. And then five more was added to it.

So technically, we should write .

But who cares, right?

Addition is commutative, so it doesn’t matter. It’s just semantics, as they say.

But what about, “five less than eleven”?

Is that ? Does the order matter this time?

### Easy with numbers. *Sometimes* easy with letters.

This is pretty straight up when we deal with plain old numbers. But what happens when we go over to letters (variables)?

Suppose you have cookies. And I have more cookies than you. (Notice I get more cookies – I love doing the writing!)

Then I have cookies.

If you have zits and I have less zits than you, I have zits.

The order followed the logic in these. It was all good.

### But sometimes not so easy with letters.

Let’s rephrase it.

“ more than ” gives us (following the order in the statement) or (following the logic). The commutative property holds. Great.

“ less than ” is a bit different. If you follow the order and notice the math keyword “less,” you’ll write .

But that’s not what it is. Look back at 11 and 5, and you’ll see that “ less than ” should be written .

### Multiplication and division are squirrelly, too.

How about is three times bigger than ? This often leads people (me included) to write .

But consider it with numbers: 15 is three times bigger than 5. That’s totally true. But is ? Heavens no!

You can still go in order, just make sure the equal sign goes where “is” is.

Again if you make sure to put the “=” where “is” is, you’re good.

### Test with numbers!

Make sure you test with numbers. Swap fun numbers like 5 and 7 with the variables. (Don’t use “nice” numbers like 1 and 0 – they come out right at all the wrong times.)

And test those numbers in the English sentence, too. Your numbers should make sense in both places!

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