Review: A Place for Zero by Angeline Sparagna LoPresti

5.0 rating
  • PublisherCharlesbridge
  • Pages32

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A Place for Zero: A Math Adventure is a fun romp through the imaginary land of Digitaria, where the digits 1 through 9 happily play Addemup all day long while Zero longs to find their place in the world.

The colorful illustrations by Phyllis Hornung and the fanciful kingdom readily capture the imaginations of early-elementary children. The continual math puns are used with just enough accuracy to make mathematics teachers appreciate the gentle introduction to advanced vocabulary. The story is eminently re-readable, with individuals and groups of students both asking to be read the story again and again.

A Place for Zero: A Math Adventure explores big mathematical ideas and vocabulary in a fun, whimsical romp through the fictional land of Digitaria.

The storyline explores various properties of Zero (e.g., “We have discovered your additive identity.”) These help zero to feel somewhat more useful in Digitaria, but Zero is never quite satisfied until the final resolution — when Zero finally finds their place, atTENding to the new business of making larger and larger numbers that were never before accessible in Digitaria.

The journey parallels the feelings and journey of people of all ages as we struggle to learn who we are and how we both fit in and matter to the world around us.

How to Read/Use

This book makes a fun read-aloud to individuals and groups. In both settings, children have requested repeated readings over and over, exploring different aspects of both the illustrations (e.g., the bare feet of the “young” numbers vs the shoes of the elders) and the mathematics (e.g., zero times anything is zero, addition is an extension of counting by ones, etc).

The mathematics is accurate enough to revisit the story whenever one of its mathematical concepts is being introduced (e.g., place value, addition, multiplication by zero, extending place value to higher values, additive identity, etc). Of course, it does not necessarily teach the mathematics, but it does introduce the vocabulary while engaging children’s imagination and giving them imagery to scaffold the learning in their memory.

In my experience, the children love to imagine that Digitaria is a “real” place where the digits run around and play Addemup, are added together to create new digits, etc. The latest group I shared the story with decided that all of Digitaria was so tiny as to fit on their arms, which were then full of mathematics happening all day long. What fun (for some of us) to have mathematics happening on our bodies all the time!


A Place for Zero: A Math Adventure appears to be Sparagna LoPresti’s only published book. Further, I can’t find too much about this author online beyond the publisher’s author page:

A native New Yorker, Angeline Sparagna LoPresti taught math to second through eighth graders for twenty-five years. Prior to her teaching career, she was a medical research assistant at the Department of Bacteriology at Cornell University Medical School.

Charlesbridge Publishing author page

Final Thoughts

I wholeheartedly recommend A Place for Zero: A Math Adventure to both parents and educators of early and mid-elementary children. Both the story and the visuals are engaging and entertaining, as well as educational. The mathematical vocabulary is a great balance between subtle and overt to help children engage with the words exactly when they are ready to.

While the mathematics is targeted for early- to mid-elementary, the fanciful, imaginative kingdom also engages younger children and keeps the story from becoming rote or tedious to the adult readers. This makes it an excellent read-aloud for groups of varying sizes and ages.

A Place for Zero: A Math Adventure comes in paperback, hardback, and library binding. You’re likely to reach for this book again and again as your child(ren) loop through the mathematical ideas.


Barbie has taught math, supported students, and volunteered in classrooms for over 20 years. Her daughter is currently learning math in a Common Core state.

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About Me

Barbie has taught math and worked in student support at community colleges and other postsecondary schools for twenty years. Most of her students were math-insecure. Barbie is also a parent and regular school volunteer, using her math teaching skills alongside local teachers to support and bolster the students and families as much as she can.

Some posts contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. You can read more about how I choose affiliates and products at my affiliate page.

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