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ZeroSum Ruler Review by Jennifer Harrison

Shana Donohue
85 Third Street
Apartment 3
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02141

Math is a subject that students can sometimes fake their way through. They might not understand how a problem works, but given the formula, they can follow rules and get things to come out all right in the end. Faking can only get them so far, though. Eventually, they will either forget the formula or not be able to recognize it when arranged in an unfamiliar manner. What a math teacher wants to see is the light bulb moment--when a student doesn't just use a formula but understands why it works.

Working with negative numbers is an abstract concept that many students have a hard time visualizing. How does one visualize what isn't there? According to the website, the ZeroSum Ruler naturally brings this abstract "knowing" into concrete "showing"! This simple little device helps students see not only the negative numbers but also their relationship with other numbers.

For instance, a student might not see how subtracting 10 from 5 is actually the same as saying 5 + -10. Visualizing the process with the ZeroSum Ruler helps students see that when they are figuring out a real-life scenario, such as how much someone owes them, they are really counting forward in positive numbers.

The ruler itself is of laminated cardstock and is hinged at zero so that it can be folded, making the positive numbers line up with the negative numbers. This allows students to count forward the number they are subtracting or adding.

The true gem of the ZeroSum Ruler is the creator herself. Shana is passionate about math and making it reachable for students. Her website contains math videos and commentaries that help students see that math is fun, interesting, and relevant. She breaks things down in an easy-to-understand method, and she is also happy to help with math questions from students and teachers.

The ZeroSum Ruler is a great asset for students struggling with the concept of negative numbers. And its creator is a great help to parents struggling to teach those students.

Product review by Jennifer Harrison, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November 2010