The child counts an irregular arrangement of up to 9 objects and matches each to the corresponding number symbol.

Playing the zero game with various objects

Playing the zero game with various objects

Roberta Frosolini


The child further experiences the concept of zero.


  • Practice counting loose quantities
  • Identify the correct numeral to represent an amount of counters




  • A small box with a set of number papers 0 to 9
  • A selection of counters, each set orderly contained in a box, tray, cup or bowl


Number names: 0 to 9


“I often uses numbers cut from large calendars … and I cut away any print that may be above or below the figures.” —Maria Montessori in The Discovery of the Child

This exercise is carried out by a group of children, usually on the floor. Place the mat on the floor and ask the children to choose a set of counters from around the room and bring them to the floor mat.

Once all are seated, pass the box containing the pieces of inset paper around the group (the pieces of paper already having been folded into squares) and ask the children to take a piece each. The children each unfold their piece of paper and take turns to count the correct number of counters and place them by their written number.

When the child who has the 0 does not take any items, you may ask him why he hasn’t taken any object. The child should reply: “Because 0 is nothing”.


When the children recognize the written number symbols and know their meanings, invite them to play memory number games, where spindles or other objects may be used as counters.

Lay the spindles down on the table then ask the children to each unfold their piece of paper, look at the number, leave their piece of paper behind, go to the table, and pick up the number of spindles corresponding to their number symbol.


Offer the child plenty of opportunities to reinforce the concept of zero with singing number rhymes such as: Five Little Ducks, Five Little Seashells, Ten in the Bed, or 10 Green Bottles.

You may bring the Zero Game outside; turn it into a physical activity for a group of children to perform when in the garden. You may ask the children to perform an action, such as jumping or hopping five times, then six times and then zero times. At this point, when one of the children stays still, you may ask her why she is not jumping.