Nesta and the Missing Zero


This is an activity based on the picture book Nesta and the Missing Zero

Achievement Objectives
NA2-4: Know how many ones, tens, and hundreds are in whole numbers to at least 1000.
Specific Learning Outcomes
  1. Students will be able to identify the impact on the value of a whole number when a zero is a place holder (for example 35 vs 305).
  2. Students will be able to accurately read numbers to at least 1000.
Description of Mathematics
  1. Zero plays a powerful role in numbers as a place holder.
  2. A decimal number system has 10 digits, including zero, and numbers are read from left to right.
Required Resource Materials
Place Value Houses – copymaster or commercially produced


Nesta and the Missing Zero by Julie Leibrich

Highlighters or felts


A Day Without Zero
This activity is based on the picture book Nesta and the Missing Zero

Author: Julie Leibrich
Illustrator: Ross Kinnaird
Publisher: Scholastic (2006)
ISBN: 1-86943-730-6

In the sequel to The Biggest Number in the Universe, Nesta has to help her neighbor, Mr Abacus, find zero. The loss of “nothing” throws the world into chaos and Nesta discovers the power of zero as a place-holder.

Lesson Sequence:

  1. Prior to reading, ask students to brainstorm:
    What do we know about ZERO?
    Record the ideas in one colour. Tell students that after reading the book you will record any new ideas in another colour.
    If you have read The Biggest Number in the Universe, introduce this as a sequel and ask them what they remember about the characters and the maths from the last book.
  2. Share the book with your students, stopping to question or probe when there may be something that can be added to the brainstorm at the end of the reading. For example:
    Is zero odd or even (p. 8), What does it mean: “nought”? (p. 32), What happened at the bank? (p.13)
  3. Next, revisit the brainstorm and add any new ideas in a different colour to demonstrate “what we’ve learned about zero” or cross off any old ideas that have changed following the reading.
  4. Revisit the address and car example (p.10), bank example (p.13) and the age example (p. 23) from the book with a set of place value houses.
    Discuss what would happen if zero did disappear from the world for a day.
    Where would you notice it was missing the most?
  5. Hand out a newspaper to pairs or small groups or students with the instructions that they are to find the date on the front page and use their highlighter or felt to “Highlight the day zero disappeared”. Students now work their way through sections of the paper hunting for zero and highlighting it and discussing what impact it would have on the item if it was missing (for example: in sports scores 30-14 become 3-14, house and car prices drop dramatically, the date goes from 2012 to 212 etc.) They can cut out the most interesting examples and make a poster of what happened the day zero disappeared.
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Level Two