Some basic mathematical symbols include + (addition sign), - (subtraction sign), x (multiplication sign), ÷ (division sign) and π (pi). A few more complex symbols are ∞ (infinity), |x| (absolute value), sin (sine), cos (cosine) and tan (tangent).

The four most common signs (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) are used to perform basic mathematical equations. German mathematicians invented the addition and subtraction signs at the end of the 15th century. The multiplication and division signs came later. In 1631, W. Oughtred introduced the multiplication sign, and in 1684, G. Leibniz invented the division sign.

The pi symbol came about in 1706 when W. Jones created it. Generally, pi is approximated as 3.14 to make calculations easy, but the actual number contains more decimal places. There is a pi button on most scientific calculators.

Complex mathematical symbols are used at higher levels of math. The infinity symbol, introduced by J. Wallis in 1655, is used to indicate that a number is infinitely large. Absolute value, which was invented in 1841 by K. Weierstrass, is useful for determining the distance of a number from zero. L. Euler created sine and cosine together in 1748. In 1753, he added tangent to the group of symbols. All three of these symbols are used to calculate angles in triangles.