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(This is only peripherally related to math education, but it seems to be slightly more on-topic here than in MSE; if people disagree, I will gladly remove it and post it there.)

I have recently started tutoring a college student who, I've noticed, uses a slightly nonstandard (?) way of speaking mathematics aloud. Given an expression like $$\frac{3\cdot n}{k}$$ she will say "3 onto $n$, over $k$". It's the use of the word "onto" that I am interested in here. To my (Michigan-raised) ears, it's an unusual way of speaking this mathematics; I would expect to hear "3 times $n$ over $k$".

This particular student is from the southern US state of Georgia, which leads me to suspect that this is a regionalism. So now I am wondering: where in the English-speaking world is this way of speaking taught?

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    $\begingroup$ I grew up in Georgia, and I've never heard that way of speaking, although I can imagine some particular teacher talking that way. $\endgroup$ – Dan Fox Mar 17 '18 at 10:30
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    $\begingroup$ The number of comments and answers from people familiar with this terminology constitutes a pretty clear answer to the question. $\endgroup$ – Andreas Blass Mar 22 '18 at 0:12
  • $\begingroup$ @AndreasBlass It just deepens the mystery: where did this student pick up this way of speaking? $\endgroup$ – mweiss Mar 22 '18 at 0:18
  • $\begingroup$ Have you asked the student? $\endgroup$ – John Coleman Mar 23 '18 at 11:27
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnColeman I have. She seemed confused by my comment -- didn't realize she was saying it. Then a few minutes later she did it again and I said "There, you just did it again!" and she got a funny look on her face and said "Is that not normal?" That was when she told me she was from Georgia and I said it must be a regionalism. $\endgroup$ – mweiss Mar 27 '18 at 23:27
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It's possible that she said, or meant to say, "into", which denoted multiplication in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Perhaps she was taught using rather antiquated terminology.

"The sign $\times$ is called the sign of multiplication, and $a \times b$ is read thus "$a$ into $b$." " Algebra for Beginners, I. Todhunter, 1872.

"Multiplication, $\times$, multiplied by, or into; $A \times B$, $A$ into $B$." , First Lessons on Geometry, Alpheus Crosby, 1847

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  • $\begingroup$ I just met with her again today and she definitely says "onto", rather than "into". $\endgroup$ – mweiss Mar 27 '18 at 23:27

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