In mathematics, an expression or mathematical expression is a finite combination of symbols that is well-formed according to rules that depend on the context. Mathematical symbols can designate numbers (constants), variables, operations, functions, brackets, punctuation, and grouping to help determine order of operations, and other aspects of logical syntax.

Many authors distinguish an expression from a formula, the former denoting a mathematical object, and the latter denoting a statement about mathematical objects.[citation needed] For example, is an expression, while is a formula. However, in modern mathematics, and in particular in computer algebra, formulas are viewed as expressions that can be evaluated to true or false, depending on the values that are given to the variables occurring in the expressions. For example takes the value false if x is given a value less than –1, and the value true otherwise.


The use of expressions ranges from the simple:

  (linear polynomial)
  (quadratic polynomial)
  (rational fraction)

to the complex: