Is Zero a Natural Number?

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  • 0:04 Let's Count
  • 0:26 Is Zero a Natural Number?
  • 2:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rayna Cummings

Rayna has taught Elementary Education for 12 years (in both 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades) and holds a M.Ed in Early Childhood Education from The Ohio State University

Think about all the toys you got for Christmas and count all of them in your mind. I bet you counted up to a high number. Well, in this lesson, you'll learn about counting and natural numbers, how to identify natural numbers, and if zero is a natural number at all.

Let's Count

Quickly count the numbers one to twenty. No problem right? Well, you just counted natural numbers. A natural number is any positive, whole number such as the numbers you just counted. Positive numbers are also called positive integers. Numbers are not natural numbers if they are negative numbers or fractions, such as 1/3 or 4.20.

Is Zero a Natural Number?

Now that you know what natural numbers are, is zero considered a natural number?

Remember natural numbers are any positive whole number and they count up from zero. We cannot start counting without saying the most important number that starts it all - zero, but do we count something if there is zero of it? Probably not.

Think for a minute of a time when you were counting all your cool toys that you got for Christmas. Would you count them by starting with zero, one, two, three, and so on? No... you would say one, two, three, and so on. Usually, when we count items like you did your cool Christmas toys, we do not start with the number zero. Not starting with zero when we count objects makes zero being a natural number or not a debate in the world of mathematics. Most people count starting with the number one not zero. Just like you did with counting your toys. This is the argument some mathematicians make to support zero is not a natural number.

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