In honor of this month’s mathematics-fest, today we are focusing on a great big Nothing to celebrate: Zero! We’ve chosen a trio of books for early readers, tweens & teens, and adults that all delight in the magnificence of the concept of zero.
A brand-new picture book (2012) for younger readers:
Zero the Hero by Joan Holub, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
A terrific introduction to the concept of zero for young children–and the many uses zero has in mathematics. The numbers are all personified and talk to one another. Zero knows he isn’t “Zilch, Nada, Nothing” like the other numbers say he is–and gets his chance to prove himself a hero when Roman numeral soldiers capture all the counting numbers and corral them in a gladiator ring (clock with Roman numerals). He saves the day. There’s also humor, and not a little poignancy in the story. (Like when Zero figures out that when he multiplies his number friends and they disappear, he gets a sad “hollow feeling” inside. ) Vibrant and compelling art work from Lichtenheld, an award-winning illustrator. Enjoy!
For teens & tweens:
The Best of Times by Greg Tang
Instead of memorizing multiplication tables, mathematician Tang favors emphasizing a better understanding of quantities and numbers. His rhymes help readers understanding through use of tools that contain explanations and quirky rhymes. So, to help remember that 0 times anything is zero: “For every problem it’s the same,/ zilch or zero is its name!” The book is full of strategic thinking, and teaches kids there’s more than one way to solve a problem.
For adults of all ages:
Science journalist K.C. Cole is witty and brilliant in her fascinating exploration about the incredible importance of, well, Nothing. She shows how physicists’ ideas about time, space, and reality flow out of their ideas about nothing (including concepts like vacuum and ether.) Lots of puns make the dense ideas fun to grapple with–and the chapters are short and readable.
In case you’ve missed some of our other odes to the wonders of math, check out these posts: