As someone who was never strong in mathematics, I was interested to see how A Place for Zero would go about teaching children the greater meaning of the number zero. I was not disappointed. With its simple story combined with colorful illustrations, it is easy to follow and grasp the more advanced mathematics being introduced to children.
Zero lives in the kingdom of Digitaria, “where every number knows its place.” That is, every number except Zero, who cannot add himself to other numbers like everyone else. When he goes to the wise old Count Infinity to discover his purpose, they discover that he can add the number one to himself to get another one. Zero is pleased to know that he can now add, but feels it’s not enough. Zero goes to King Multiplus and asks to be multiplied with another number. The King obliges and everyone is awed to see that multiplying Zero with a number gets another zero! As more uses for Zero are revealed, Zero now means more than nothing.
Teaching Children the Uses of Zero
A Place for Zero teaches children that the number zero has more applications beyond meaning “nothing.” Zero is not an empty number at all, but a very important one. It is now an additive identity, as well as a placeholder. Without it, larger numbers, be it 20 or 200, would have no meaning.
Illustrations Reinforce Learning
The illustrations feature numbers and mathematical symbols with human characteristics. These characteristics give children a more concrete understanding of numbers, as the numbers are being represented as live entities. With such bold illustrations, children are able to see how numbers work together and are more likely to remember how each concept works.
Everyone Has a Purpose
Zero spent most of his life believing that he had no purpose because he could not to what everyone else could. What he and no one else in the kingdom considered was that his talents may lie elsewhere.
This lesson teaches children that the inability to achieve what is thought of as a “universal skill” is not shameful. No one can do the same things, and everyone has different talents. It takes time to explore and discover your unique niche.
This story is aimed towards children who are learning multiplication and larger numbers, as well as discovering their own unique talents. Younger children may enjoy the story, but not fully understand its meaning. In addition the language is also more advanced, using words like “enormous” instead of “big,” which expand a young child’s vocabulary. Lastly, the book keeps parents and teacher entertained with many hidden puns and creative character names.