What is Zero? - The Number Zero
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# What is Zero?

How can you add big numbers without an abacus? You still group the sheep (or whatever) just as you did when you were using the abacus, but now you write the numbers down using place values, so that your hundreds are all underneath your other hundreds, your tens are underneath your other tens, and your ones are underneath each other too.

It doesn't matter what order you put your addition problem in: 5 + 2 is always the same as 2 + 5, and 256 + 672 is always the same as 672 + 226. Using place values to add the numbers will still work.

How about adding areas - pieces of a plane - together? You just add them - 3 square feet and 4 square feet is 7 square feet. You don't have to do anything fancy.

## Learn by doing: the number lineMore about Indian mathematics

Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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