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What Kind of Math Do You Need to Know to Be a Medical Assistant?

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An understanding of fundamental math and basic algebra are required of those wishing to become a medical assistant. Most medical assistants need to understand how to perform math calculations that deal with percentages, fractions, metrics and multiplication. Algebraic formulas and calculations are also used in some of the job functions that a medical assistant performs. Some knowledge of statistics may be used when evaluating lab test data. Formal medical assistant degree programs usually require students to take a course in college algebra.

The Basics

Medical assistants need to be familiar with basic math calculations, terminology and rules. This includes concepts related to addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Basic math concepts also include rules related to number squaring. Many of these concepts are integrated into the coursework required of medical assistants. The majority of degree programs will administer a placement test to assess the fundamental math skills of individual students. If necessary, students may be required to take a basic math course.

Fractions, Decimals and Percentages

Familiarity with fractions, decimals and percentages is essential for medical assistants. Since the majority of a medical assistant's job duties will deal with these types of calculations, laboratory and clinical course work will deal with them directly. Lab work and test results often require a medical assistant to employ rules related to fractions. This is especially true when calculating dosages. Percentage calculations are typically used when figuring the amount of interest on patients' billing accounts. A knowledge of unit measurements is crucial since they are used when calculating weight, height and body temperature.


College-level algebra is a must for medical assistants. Algebraic formulas are used when evaluating x-ray or radiographic exams. While college-level algebra primarily deals with solving unknown variables and factoring, prior knowledge is not required before entering a medical assistant degree program. Most programs either integrate simple formulas into courses or deliver full courses on algebraic concepts. It is important to gain a thorough understanding of the simple formulas since they tend to be used frequently by medical assistants.


When evaluating lab results or graphs, some statistical knowledge may be needed. Standard deviation calculations may be used when using graphs to document expected and actual lab test results. This math concept involves knowledge of how to calculate sample size averages, subtraction and number squaring. A complete knowledge of statistics is usually not required. Most medical assistant degree programs will introduce basic statistical concepts as a part of other required coursework.


Helen Akers specializes in business and technology topics. She has professional experience in business-to-business sales, technical support, and management. Akers holds a Master of Business Administration with a marketing concentration from Devry University's Keller Graduate School of Management and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles.

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