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Parentheses or brackets (US/UK terminology question)

  1. Jul 9, 2008 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data

    I'm trying to find out how people in the USA would refer to the following operations - i.e. what name would you give the process of doing something like this:

    a(a + b) = a^2 + ab

    (a + b)^2 = (a + b)(a + b) = a^2 + 2ab + b^2

    2. Relevant equations


    3. The attempt at a solution

    I have a number of US physics books, but they don't cover algebra. All of my math(s) books are UK or international.I would call the above operation 'multiplying out the brackets', e.g.


    But I believe that in the USA, () are called parentheses - so there must be different terminology for the operation as well? As I don't know what it is, I don't know what to search for using a search engine! So any light that can be shed on the subject would be gratefully received - thanks in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 9, 2008 #2


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    Gold Member

    I thought {} were parentheses.
  4. Jul 9, 2008 #3


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    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    No, "(" and ")" are "parentheses". "{" and "}" are braces.

    But they are "multiplying out" whatever you want to call the symbols!
  5. Jul 9, 2008 #4
    The computer algebra system Mathematica uses the term "Bracketing" in the following way:

    Four kinds of bracketing:
    (term) parenthesis for grouping
    f[x] square brackets for functions
    {a,b,c} curly braces for lists
    v[] double brackets for indexing

    Notice that "bracket" is used here as a specific and generic term.

    I dont think you are going to find uniformity here.
  6. Jul 10, 2008 #5
    Thanks for the replies everyone, I'll go with "multiplying out the parentheses".
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