The Zero Game

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Value of Playing The Zero Game:

Level: Grades 1-3

Recommended # of Players: 2-4

Materials: 5 chips for each player; 1 place marker; deck of Zero Game cards consisting of 30 subtraction cards (1-10) and 5 addition cards (2, 4, 6, 8, 10) (Note: standard playing cards can also be used, making red subtraction and  black addition.)

Math Skills: addition and subtraction of numbers 1-10; number line

Mathematical benefits

The Zero Game is beneficial for children who are developing fluency adding and subtracting small numbers (1-10) from 1- and 2-digit numbers. The game board presents children with a type of number line, giving them a visual assist if they cannot add or subtract mentally.  The game board consists of 4 lines of numbers (organized by tens), one of the challenges for children is to recognize that when the marker reaches the end of a line of tens, it has to be moved to the next line - much like borrowing or carrying. 

As the marker gets closer to zero, children have the opportunity to reason about which numbers would take them below zero (causing them to lose a chip) and which number they would need to play in order to land directly on zero (thus collecting extra chips). Children can also develop strategies such as using their large numbers early in the game (when the marker is closer to 30), playing a card that will place the marker very close to zero for the next player, and hoarding their addition cards to use when the marker gets close to zero.


Click on the icons below to print out the game board and cards.