Math as a Second Language – Negative and Positive Numbers

One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to relearn math. I’ve begun by learning about positive and negative numbers. Positive numbers are easy to understand; they are everywhere. We count with positive numbers. We measure our height with positive numbers and our weight (although a negative number here would be good in my case.)

Temperatures below zero are expressed as negative numbers. When you spend more money than you have, you have a negative balance.

The number line is used to express positive and negative numbers. Zero lives at the center of the line. Positive numbers increase to the right of zero and negative numbers increase in value to the left of zero.

There are other ways to visualize positive and negative numbers. A thermometer uses positive and negative numbers to display temperatures. A piano keyboard represents the concept of positive and negative numbers in the sense that negative numbers are smaller than positive numbers. The strings that produce the bass notes (left side of the keyboard) vibrate at a slower rate (less vibrations per second) than the higher (treble) notes (more vibrations per second) located at the right side of the keyboard.

Color can also represent the concept of positive and negative values. The brighter the color, the higher the positive number (more brightness, less darkness). The darker the color, the higher the negative number (more darkness, less brightness).

The picture of the thermometer is from The picture of the keyboard is from


About acohen843

I am a writer and ESL teacher who enjoys the challenge of starting businesses. Currently, I am a JuicePlus distributor ( who is using this business opportunity as the foundation of a social entrepreneurship project.
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One Response to Math as a Second Language – Negative and Positive Numbers

  1. shana donohue says:

    As a high school math teacher, I can tell you the biggest stumbling block for kids is just this concept. What is -7 + 3? It it -10? You wouldn’t believe how many kids would give this answer.

    In place of the traditional numberline and “counting up and down”, I created a foldable number line. It has helpd my students TREMENDOUSLY, and I wish I had the platform to get it out to more kids. Unlike using the traditional number line, my ZeroSum ruler shows the kids the relationship between negatives and positves.

    Here’s my site if you want to check it out!

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