Zero and one, studying numerals

In math workshop a few months back, RS asked an intriguing and puzzling question… 

Why are the numbers always in the same order? 

A few days later,  JL asked a related question, 

Why does 10 not ever show up in larger numbers? 

It took me a while to understand what they were asking. As JL patiently explained it to me a few times, I realized he noticed like RS that all the other numerals 1 through 9 repeat in the higher numbers like 23 and 59, but 10 never shows up again, there is no twenty ten after twenty nine even though that makes so much sense. 

This question launched us into a study of zero because (I know and they will hopefully construct the understanding that…) it is the zero, not the ten that repeats, but, interestingly,  zero is not often discussed as a number or numeral and when we count we don’t start with zero, we start with one. After reading Zero by Kathryn Otoshi and Zero is the Leaves on the Trees, by Betsy Franco and Shino Arihara, we started to look for places we could ‘see’ zero all around the room and in our lives.

These are some of the Zero’s that showed up over the winter holiday break and when we returned to our classroom. 



SamzeroSP -Zero Annikins in Star Wars

DahliazeroDW: Zero journals in the message area

Andrew zeroAH: Zero fish in the bucket

CadezeroCC: Zero passenger trains for Christmas

RennzeroRS: Zero snow in Chicago

1-5-12 029CG: Zero lights at night

1-5-12 037

IB: Zero children on the seats at school when they leave

 After zero, we began to study the different numerals in our number system (0 – 9). 

 Here is some of our work on the number one…

 Teacher: What do you know about one?

CG:One is just one thing, 

RS: Owen has one shirt. 

CC:One means you are a baby and you are little.

OA: My brother is one. 

We read Little 1 by Ann Rand and Paul Rand and continued thinking together:

Teacher: What do you think? What is the book saying about 1?

RS: One is good, it makes like 41, 51, 21, 61

PH: One makes every big number, every big number that has one in it like 100!

JL: Like ten hundred

Teacher: Is 1 an important number? Can 1 have fun?

OA: It is in all the high numbers.

RS: He joins with the other ones and they will all go to different numbers

Teacher: Is one by itself important? 

RS: It’s not important until it was with the other numbers (in the book). Then it will be a big number.

PH: Yes, two one’s make two.

Teacher: Could you get 2 without those one’s?

PH: No! He is still important.

CG: He’s important because he has his friend zero, if he wasn’t there, he would be a one.

Teacher: I want to share an idea of one as super important. When there is only one, that thing is often really important, like one sun, or one mom. Do you have a one in your life that you are glad there is only one of because having only one makes it so special? 

 As the children began to think of their ‘ones’ their faces lit up with love of their very special one and with it an understanding that there could only be one of their special thing and that is part of what makes it so very special. RS started us off with a very heartfelt 

"There is only one Grrrr"Rennone

and it was clear he completely understood the importance of ONE.

OA: One Zoya, he has one secret door


IB: One Barkley, I miss you.

Dahlia one
DW: One family, one mommy, one daddy, one me, one Murray

CC: One lego train

HF-A: One sister, Esme

SP: One Dozer, he’s super soft.

Andrew copy
AH: One guinea pig

PH: One kitty that is mine.

LB: One Coco, my sister loves me, she asks for me.

CG: One Nose

JL: One favorite stuffed animal, one lamby

FA: One Sparky

FD-L: One Nibble and One Moonstruck


DM: One Barney

I look forward to returning to RS and JL’s questions to see what we notice about repeating numbers and the number 10. What new ideas will have been constructed, and what wonderings will we develop along the way? 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.