Math CentralQuandaries & Queries


Question from Allan, a parent:

please confirm if an area of 5 square metres is different from 5m^2 (5metres squared)

We have two responses for you.

Hi Allen,

The English language is a strange and beautiful thing. The two snippets you have above

an area of 5 square metres and
an area of 5 m2 (5 metres squared)

mean exactly the same thing. The area of a two-dimensional region is a number that measures the size of the region and it is in square units. It can have any shape. The word square or squared refers to the units and not the shape.

On the other hand the phrase a 5 metre square describes a shape which is a square that measures 5 metres on each side. Its area is 5 times 5 = 25 square metres.

I hope this helps,

Hi Allan.

The answer is: it depends.

People are loose with their terminology and "5 square meters" is an imprecise phase that can be taken two ways: (5 square) meters, or in other words, 25 meters or 5 (square meters) which means 5 meters squared (5 m^2). One is length, the other is area.

Strictly speaking in english we would say "5 squared" meters, rather than "5 square meters", but this would vary in different dialects and countries.

So the context should tell you what is meant.

However, in order to be precise with your language and unambiguous, you should use the expression "5 meters squared" for area and "25 meters" or 52 meters for the length.

Just for interest, (5 meters)2 would be read as "5 meters all squared", which equals 25 meters squared.

Stephen La Rocque.>

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