Do the Math – Idiom, Meaning & Origin

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Ready to put on your mental arithmetic hats? We’re dissecting an idiom that will have you crunching numbers metaphorically, and that phrase is do the math. Don’t worry, though. I promise it’s more about language than algebra!

Is It Do the Math or Do the Maths?

Do the Math vs Do the Maths Ngram
Do the math and do the maths usage trend.

Since both math and maths are quick versions of the word mathematics, you could use both phrases and still be correct. Do the math is more common in America, and do the maths is more commonly used in British English. The meaning is the same; it’s all about figuring something out, although not necessarily using numbers! (Thank goodness! I’m a word nerd, not a number nerd.)

Do the Math Idiom Meaning Broken Down

The phrase do the math is an idiomatic expression we use to describe putting together the facts of a situation to figure out or understand the truth behind it all. It’s about analyzing a situation, understanding the implications, or deducing something based on the information available.

A great example is my kids. When they have too much tech time, they’re grumpy and short and tend to act out. When I reduce their tech time, they’re far more pleasant, play outside, and work on their hobbies. Which one is better for them? I’d just say, “Do the math!”

Origin and Etymology Behind Do the Math

Do the Math Ngram
Do the math usage trend.

This phrase do the math is a relatively recent addition to the English language, with its usage traceable to the mid-20th century. It’s derived from the literal action of doing mathematical calculations to solve a problem and move forward. Like most phrases, it evolved over time into a metaphorical phrase used to solve issues beyond the numeric realm.

Do the Math Synonyms

  • Calculate the outcome
  • Figure it out
  • Put two and two together
  • Make sense of it
  • Draw a conclusion

Do the Math Idiom Examples in a Sentence

Do the Math – Idiom Meaning Origin
  • She earns more than me and works fewer hours — you do the math!
  • They’ve been dating for five years. Add an engagement ring to the mix and, well, do the math.
  • I’ve been saving $200 a month for a year. Do the math, that’s $2400!
  • We only need three more points to win the league. Do the math, and you’ll see why the next game is so important.
  • Look at the stats, do the math, and you’ll realize how far we’ve come.
  • If you do the math, you’ll see that buying in bulk is cheaper.
  • He’s always late to meetings and unprepared. Do the math; he’s not reliable.
  • Do the math: if we increase productivity by just 10%, our profits will skyrocket.
  • They’ve got twice our budget and half our workload. Do the math; they have an advantage.
  • Her story doesn’t add up. I’ve done the math, and something’s off.

You Do the Math on Grammar!

Do the math might not require an actual calculator, but it does involve some figurative number crunching. Whether you’re adding up inconsistencies in a story or calculating savings, this idiom is a handy tool for making sense of situations. So, keep those mental gears turning and stick around for more idiom insights!