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Teaching Kids About The Number Zero

The number zero will be the first number in our number bonds worksheets series.

A good way to start teaching kids about the number zero is with hands on play that will help them understand that zero is nothing.  I found this to be a very easy concept to teach:

I have 5 candies on my plate, guess how many candies I gave my daughter?

Adding and subtracting zero was the next logical math skill to teach.  We played with different objects and toys to add or subtract zero from them.  She understood the concept pretty quickly.  So then I could ask her questions like, there’s 4 dolls in the doll bed plus zero dolls on the floor, how many dolls are there total?  Then to play around, I asked her bigger numbers – zero, or zero + a big number, any number.  Once the concept is grasped, the answers come easy.

Perhaps some were wondering why last Monday’s lesson included counting by 2’s. Well, the reason for that is, if your child knows at least “2, 4, 6, 8, 10”, then teaching them even or odd numbers is much easier.  I told my daughter, any number that ends with 2, 4, 6, 8, 0r 0 (the last number in 10) is even, anything else (1, 3, 5, 7, 9) is odd.  You can use the number pattern from the .pdf from last week to help explain this even / odd skill.

printable math .pdf on Zero

Printable Zero Worksheet for Kindergarten

The free printable for this weeks lesson on zero can be downloaded below.

It includes a page with all the letters to cut out till the end of the lesson on “TEN”.

The original reason I created these printables was to help teach my daughter in a fun way the Grade 1 skill “Writing Numbers In Words“.  And what could be more fun than colouring fun looking letter characters!

And repetition for emphasis always being good, after she had fun colouring ZERO, I asked her to tell me how to spell it.  Then she got to do some cutting and pasting.  Ok, I cut the letters out for her, but she was very happy to find the correct letters and glue them in the right spot.

 So after cutting them all out, perhaps put the letters in a little ziplock bag, or other container, for future lessons.

Another option for added repetition, if your child is able to write their letters, you could let them write the correct letters in the squares before gluing the letter tiles.  That would allow for at least 4 different ways of learning how to read & spell the number zero.

I wanted this to be as kid friendly and fun as possible, while still teaching solid math skills.  So in that goal, I tried to limit the worded instructions wherever possible, so parental explanation might be needed at times.  In case it’s not clear, the rounded square after the tracing “0” section is for your child to try and write a zero without any tracing help.

Mental Math Option

As an option, you could also introduce mental math to your child using a Japanese abacus.  I found exposing my daughter to the concept has only been a benefit to her.  Certain math equations she was able to remember quite easily due to “seeing” the answer in her head.  And certain concepts were more easily explained with the use of the abacus.  Much easier than it sounds, I invite you to try it out.  You will need to have a iPad or an iPhone tho or an actual Japanese abacus if you have one. As this lesson is about the number zero, we will simply learn what zero looks like on the Japanese abacus.  The best app I found for this, is a completely free app called “Talking Abacus”.  If you have an iPad, you can download it here, an iPhone here.

A bead only gets counted when it is touching the beam in the middle.  So if there are no beads touching the middle beam, then that would be zero on the abacus. For this week, simply let your kids try the app, moving beads around, and show them what the number zero looks like on the abacus.

Hope your kids have fun learning, and when they’re done this lesson, they can move on to the number one.


Friday 7th of July 2017

I am, have been homeschooling my son in grade primary this year and plan to continue next year into grade 1. I am so happy I found this blog and your site. Great ideas and direction, thank you SO much! Question regarding the mental math piece. What kind of abacus is it that you are using? I don't have ipad, we only have android so I am unable to use the app you recommend. I'd actually like to get an abacus so it's more hands on for them, however there are a few types. Any thoughts on which style is the better option? It sounds like the one you are talking about in the free app is maybe called a Chinese abacus? Where all the beads are the same color, and there are only 2 above the bar and more below the bar, and they slid up and down. The most common I see when I search for abacus is those that have 10 rows of beads, where you slid them from left to right or vice versa, and each row is a different color and has 10 beads. Just wondering what your experience or knowledge is in terms of choosing which style to use. Ideally the one that really helps them learn the mental math the best. And also if you now happen to know of any good free abacus apps for android I'd love to hear a recommendation. Thanks in advance

Melanie Thomas

Friday 7th of July 2017

The abacus my daughter is using in the Mental Math post is called a Japanese Soroban. With this abacus there's only 1 bead above the bar and 4 below. It's very useful for mental math.

The Chinese abacus has 2 beads above and 5 below. I don't have any experience with the Chinese abacus so I can't comment on it.

I have 2 Japanese Soroban abacus', so if you're looking to buy one of those I can give you my tips that I would look for if I was buying another one. I have one that has a reset button, I find that a handy feature. Also, I have one where I wish there was a little more space between the beads and the bar, it would make it easier to clearly see if the bead was being counted or not. Also, for adults anyways, I find it important for the beads not to be too small or at least a smidge of space between each column of beads. The one I have with smaller beads has no space between each column of beads and with my adult hands it's a little too confined. My other one that has I would say about 2 mm of space between each column I would say is perfect in that regards. The last thing I would be looking for would be how the beads glide. I guess that's hard to tell if you're buying online. Ideally they would glide easy but still have a bit of resistance for better control. Some pretty multiple colors would be nice but not critical.

The abacus that has 10 rows with 10 beads each is not really for mental math but can be a useful tool in general for math. I have one I got cheap at IKEA (not sure if you have an IKEA where you live). In regards to abacus apps for Android, I have no idea sorry, I don't use Android.

Debbie @ Bible Fun For Kids

Monday 9th of February 2015

The printables are great! Thanks for sharing!

Selena @ Look! We're Learning!

Wednesday 17th of December 2014

Mental math is so, so important for our kids. I love the printables! Thanks for sharing at Family Fun Friday! :)