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of the
May - July 2006
Math Cats
Writing Contest:
Zero the Hero

The contest was introduced like this:

Is Zero a hero? ... or just a big nothing? Write about Zero in a story, essay, or poem. Maybe Zero and One are bragging about which of them is more important. Or maybe Zero feels like nothing and One is trying to cheer him up. Use your imagination! We like writing that is lively and creative.

The contest was judged by Jasmin Floyd, age 13; Emily P., age 12, Claire M., age 11, and Mary W., age 12. There were lots of fun entries and it was hard to decide on the winners!

First Place    - "It Takes One to Know None"  -  poem by Liz Yang
Second Place - "Dear Zero"  -  poem by Valerie Yancy
Third Place   - "Zero the Hero"  -  poem by Zoe Wellner
Fourth Place  - "The Hero Within Zero"  -  story by Michelle Soedal
Fifth Place    - "Zero the Hero"  -  poem by Stephanie Philip
Sixth Place    - "Zero the Hero"  -  story by Erica Davis


Honorable Mention


We're helping a special friend of Math Cats, too!

* First Place:

"It Takes One to Know None"
by Liz Yang
age 14, grade 9, Lynbrook High School, Ms Quindipan's class,
San Jose, California, U.S.

I was the saddest digit in the 'hood
No one thought I was any good
"You're too small, One," they all jeered
Every day I shed more tears
Nine complained that I was such a brat
Six whined that I made it feel fat
Two declared that I was far too plain
Four laughed at my rank on the food chain
Eight taunted that I resembled a wire
Five said it'd use me to poke out the fire
Seven thought I wasn't that great
Three could use me as fishing bait
And on and on and on it went
My life seemed to be full of torment
Till that fateful day when I met my hero
Everyone but me doubted the existence of Zero
Our friendship made me feel just fine
We were as close as two perpendicular lines
And best of all, Zero and I comprised
The number Ten - a greater value than the other guys!


* Second Place:

"Dear Zero"
by Valerie Yancy
age 21+, college
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.

Dear Zero, Dear Zero,
who art thou, my hero?
Like no other number, you stand where there's none
Not 3, not 2, and no not 1
You hold the place of right hand men
When there's one in front, there you make ten
Your roundness is stout, yet strong in addition
If it were not for you, we'd live in contrition
Sometimes we forget you, for surely you lead
When counting from one, it's you who precedes
Then patiently you wait as we count shy of ten
Alas, once more, you show up again
And as ten comes, we must carry the one
As we carry her over, you always stand down
If two come together there's nothing to dread
For instead of ten, you guys make one hundred
Some call you "o," but you're not a letter
And people our age should really know better
You'll never get your credit; no one sees your true worth
Yet you rest in all numbers with such beauty and mirth
Oh Zero, O Zero, you art ever near-o
No one denies that you are our hero.


* Third Place:

"Zero the Hero"
by Zoe Wellner
age 10, grade 5, homeschooled
Les Granges Vallais, Switzerland

Zero is special.
It can't change numbers in addition.
It is neither positive nor negative, it is neutral.
It can't change numbers in subtraction.
It is the middle of the negative and positive infinity.
It becomes itself again in multiplication.
Zero has a reputation for being a nobody.
It becomes an error in division.
Zero is a singularity.
Zero is similar to an "o."
What is the population of dodos?


* Fourth Place:

The Hero Within Zero
by Michelle Soedal
age 11, grade 8
Kristiansand, Norway

       One awoke that morning to the sweet ringing of his wind chime that hung in the open window. Still in his pajamas, he waddled out to the kitchen to fix a mug of steaming coffee. He took the strong drink out onto the porch with yesterday's paper tucked under his arm. He was about to sit in his favorite chair but knew it was moist with morning dew. One sat in the kitchen instead and unfolded the newspaper, reading about a difficult equation that still had to be solved. Things were so easily messed up in the number world, he thought grumpily.
       After reading for a while, One stiffly sat up and went inside to make breakfast. By this time, most of the town had begun to wake up. One turned on the oven, hoping to make some eggs. He then went into his room and changed into what his mother called his lazy Saturday suit. He wore a lanky T-shirt and faded jeans, fitted with a pair of fluffy slippers. One loved Saturdays more than any day of the week because he could do whatever he wanted with his time.
       Slamming a pan down on the stove, One cooked up a few scrambled eggs and hungrily ate them. No sooner had he finished when the telephone began to ring. He shuffled to the counter where the phone lay squirming. With an irritated hand he picked it up.
       "Hello?" One said.
       "Is this One?" the voice at the other end asked.
       "Yeah, that's me," he replied. "Look, do you think you could save this for a better time? See, I'm kind of in the middle of - "
       Without any warning, the voice on the other end burst into tears. "They always say that. Always. Like I don't matter. It's always, 'Zero, I have more important things to do.' Or, 'You're just a Zero. What impact do you have on the world?' Just because I'm socially incapable of maintaining a healthy relationship doesn't mean that I have no impact! But what do they say? 'Get out of the way if you know what's good for you and make way for the big numbers. The important numbers.'"
       "Zero," One said to his little sister, "calm down. I'm sure you're not the only one in this situation. Like Thirteen! I'd hate to be her, with her reputation for bad luck and all."
       "That's not the same! At least she has a social life. Like 2 x 13 = 26. And nobody believes in that silly superstition, either. But me, no, 2 x 0 = 0! And according to them the number zero literally means nothing. I'm a nobody!" Zero lapsed into distressed sobs once again.
       "Zero, you are worth more than any other number. Like, what's the biggest one digit number?"
       "Nine," she answered huffily.
       "Right. And even though Ten has a zero in her name, she's still bigger than Nine. Take a look at 9 + 10 = 19. Though if you write a zero on the end of Ten, you get One Hundred. One Hundred would only be One without his zeroes."
       "Hrmmph," Zero said. "They won't listen. I'm still not worth anything in reality. No matter if I add, subtract, divide, or multiply, I'm still just Zero. In decimals, I'm definitely not worth anything!!!"
       "You don't need to be able to divide or multiply or any of that stuff! It's just for solving problems. There are other problems that can't be solved by equations, though. That's what you can help with. And you matter in decimals, too! Say someone had to pay one dollar for an ice cream cone. They didn't have one dollar. They didn't have ten dimes, either. They only had 100 pennies. Ten dimes would be - "
       "One dollar, or ten-tenths of a dollar. Yeah, yeah, I know. Where do I come in?"
       "You'll see. 10/10 can become 100/100 if you add a zero. The only way this number would be able to pay for their ice cream is if they added you to their fraction. You see, you are very important, Zero."
       There was silence on Zero's line.
       "Thanks, One. This conversation has been very thought-provoking. Man, I am so going to show them!"
       With that, Zero hung up. One smiled and returned to his breakfast.

* Fifth Place:

"Zero the Hero"
by Stephanie Philip
age 12, grade 7, Westmount School
Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

It was a fine summer day,
throughout Number Land.
Wind blew through the trees,
and crabs walked the sand.

Zero and One
were baking a cake.
When all of a sudden,
there was a earthquake!

"Help!" cried out One.
And the other stood up.
"Quick, grab the tea!"
And he reached for the cup.

Outside things were rumbling,
the numbers were scared.
They needed a hero.
For they weren't prepared.

"What's the tea for?"
asked Zero, unsure.
"I just can't explain!"
Said One, looking poor.

"Aha!" said Zero,
after taking a sip.
"Have you figured it out?"
asked One with a quivering lip.

"Yes One, I have,"
and he ran to the door.
"Then take this," One said,
And handed him more.

Zero gulped down the tea
and escaped into town.
Evey number turned away.
Zero sat with a frown.

"I've come to their rescue,
yet they won't let me help!"
Zero stood up,
and he gasped with a yelp.

Out from the ocean
a monster appeared.
Like no monster ever,
this was one all numbers feared.

It started to rain,
and Zero pushed tears aside.
He did not know how
to beat the creature miles wide.

He thought to himself,
"Number are free!
They may do as they wish
and could care less about me.

But now that I've drunken
that super strength tea,
I've got to save Number Land!
But who will help me?"

"EUREKA!" he screamed
and jogged right on home.
"One, come and help me!"
One did as he was told.

"What is it?" yelled One,
Cowering back.
"It's a monster!" Zero said.
"We've got to attack!!"

"No way," answered One.
"You go on alone!"
Zero was hurt,
but he nodded with a groan.

The battle raged on
between number and foe.
At last, Zero won!
He'd put on a great show!

"Hooray!" numbers shouted
and smiled at Zero.
For now he wasn't only happy,
but a well known town hero.


* Sixth Place:

"Zero the Hero"
by Erica Davis
age 8, grade 4, Woodland Park Academy
Grand Blanc, Michigan, U.S.

       Zero and One were at the park together. One noticed Zero with a sad look.
       "What's wrong?" asked 1\One.
       "I feel like I'm nothing," said Zero.
       "Just because you're a low number doesn't mean you can't do something big," said One.
       102 and 924 ("I'd love to be a big number like that," thought 0) were mountain climbers. Zero met them along with a bunch of other numbers at the bottom of a mountain. That's where 102 and 924 began to climb.
       Zero flew in an airplane to the top of the mountain to wait for the mountain climbers. Finally 102 made it, 924 close on her heels.
       Then, the two numbers slipped and fell down a bit of the other side. The airplane had crashed. All sides were very steep, everyone was afraid to go down for help (except one number). No one knew what to do (except one number).
       "I think I know how I can help," Zero said shyly.
       Everybody laughed. "You? Everything about you is zero! You are zero!"
       "That's true," said Zero. "But everything about me is 0, including my weight. So I will jump off the mountain. I will float to the ground and go get help."
       About a half hour later, an airplane landed on the mountain. Out came 384 (384 is a pilot) and Zero came out, too!
       "Zero called me," said 384. "Is anything wrong?"
       The numbers nodded and told him what happened.
       "I happen to keep a rope in the back."
       Soon all numbers were in the plane. They all flew safely back home.
       One and Zero played together the next day.
       "I told you that you could be a hero!" One said.
       "And I've found that being a smaller number isn't so bad after all," said Zero.

* Honorable Mention

Story of Pam Zero
by Ji-hyun Kim
age 14, grade 7, Trafalgar Castle School, Mrs. Robinson's class,
Ajax, Ontario, Canada

       Long time ago, Ms. Zero was living in a quiet house in the suburban area. Though her house wasn't huge, she had no problem living in it because it was empty. She didn't think having nothing in the house was a problem. If she felt she needed something, she could just put it into the house. However, Ms. Zero, following her name, liked her house empty better.
       One day, Ms. Zero got invited to Mr. One's house. His house was in the city. By 30 minutes of driving, Ms. Zero was finally able to get to his house. Twenty pots of flowers were in her trunk for Mr. One's present. His house was huge. When the bell rang, something crashed inside the door, and Mr. One popped out from behind the door.
       "Welcome, Pam Zero! How have you been?" said Mr. One, reaching out to hug her but tumbling down because there was something in front of him blocking.
       "Paul One, is this what your house is always like?" asked Ms. Zero.
       "Yes. I like fullness. I feel rich."
       "Isn't it uncomfortable to be like..." she looked around the house once, "...full?"
       "Actually, sometimes it is, because I can't get any of my stuff into my house any more. It's too full, nothing would go in." He slowly pointed at his backyard. The backyard was also full of couches, lightings, decorations, boxes and cooking utensils. "Oh, come in, come in," said Mr. One, putting stuff out of their way.
       After the long, inconvenient lunch, Ms. Zero arrived at her house around 2 p.m. She got off the car and opened her trunk. It was full of flower pots and there wasn't any space to fit anything in. She gave the flower pots to her neighbours and went into her empty house. When she stepped in, she stopped for a second, breathing in the air.
       "Hmm," said Ms. Zero. "I like my house the best. This is the smell of the emptiness. As I always say, I can put stuffs in if I want to. Ooh, Mr. One's house was such a mess. I like my house the best."


"Zero's a Hero!"
by Madeline Pilato
age 12, grade 7, homeschooled
New London, Connecticut, U.S.

Zero said to his friend named One,
"I can never have fun!
I want to do something,
But I can't 'cause I'm nothing
Now I think that I'm just done!"

"But Zero," said his friend named One,
"you're a very important son.
If it weren't for you
We'd be ever so blue,
Without a placeholder for sums."

"I guess you're right," said Zero that night.
"I AM a placeholder for sums!
Now that I know I think I will go,
And play and run and have fun!


"0 in a Calculator"
by Neeta Philip
age 13, grade 8, L'école Chempaka, Sharda Ma'm's class,
Thiruvananthapuram, India

       Once there lived a boy named John. He had a calculator and he loved his calculator very much.
       The numbers in the calculator also liked John. But the leader of numbers which was 1 didn't liked 0 and he was trying to get rid of him.
       One day while John was away having breakfast One said to all his friends, "Why should we be friends with that ugly creature who doesn't have any value? Look at us. We all have value and John likes us very much. So we can throw this thing away."
       And as they planned they threw him away.
       The same day after lunch, John's mother made him study. When he looked for 0 in the calculator he was not able to see 0.
       "What happened? Where is 0?" He began to cry.
       By seeing this his mother came and asked him what happened. He said everything that had happened.
       His mother said, "What is the use of a calculator without 0? So we can buy a new one tomorrow. Now you study English."
       Hearing this, all the numbers went looking for 0. At last they found him. They called him back to the calculator. He was very happy.
       He came back to the calculator, and the numbers told all that had happened. Now they had some happy time. And they started to dance.

       When 0 stood with 1,
       It was 10
       When 0 stood with 2,
       It was 20.
       When 0 stood with 3,
       It was 30.
       When 0 stood with 4,
       It was 40.
       When 0 stood with 5,
       It was 50.
       When 0 stood with 6,
       It was 60.
       When 0 stood with 7,
       It was 70.
       When 0 stood with 8,
       It was 80,
       When 0 stood with 9,
       It was 90.

       Next morning when John woke up he saw 0 in his calculator and told his mother not to buy a new one. There after all the 10 numbers lived happily in the calculator.


"0 is a Hero!"
by Ambika Opal
age 10, grade 6, Westvale Public School, Mr. Masurkevitch's class
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

"Without me you'd be nothing."
"Oh yeah! Is that so! Prove it!"
"Without me you would be only one,
not 10, 100 or a thousand!

Really I'm not bluffing,
without me you'd just sit,
anyone who saw us would run,
we could rule the math text and - "

"Wait! Don't talk any more,
I have something to say.
I think you are right more or less,
we could become best friends!

I have an idea, how about you bring four
of your zero friends to play.
We could join up, be at our best,
myself in the front, zeroes end."

So these five friends became 10,000,
the largest number they had ever seen,
they ruled the math text,
and agreed,


"I Feel Left Out!"
by Mallory Moody
age 9, grade 3, Park Terrace School, Mrs. Workman's class
Spring Lake Park, Minnesota, U.S.

       Long ago, in a far away village, the people got angry at each other! They split a line through town dividing the negatives, below the number 0, and the positives, above 0. The negative numbers played with negatives, and positives with positives.
       But there was a one-of-a-kind: Zero. Zero had no friends. One, from the positives, decided to go make friends with him. He walked over and held out his hand, but he got pulled away by his friends to go play ball.
       One went to sleep that night thinking about his soon-to-be-friend, Zero.
       The next day, One went out to try again. Just that second, though, a young boy was typing a letter to his grandmother for Mother's Day, that included #1 in it, so One had to go and be in the boy's letter.
       Later that day, around 4:00, One went back to make friends with Zero a third time. One walked up, held out his hand... and Zero shook it! One and Zero decided to be good friends forever!!!!!!


"Zero's No Zero!"
by Andrew Walden
age 11, grade 5, Fox Chase Elementary School, Mrs. Lorenz's class
Oswego, Illinois, U.S.

       One day, Zero was looking depressed. All the rest of the numbers were worried, so they tried to cheer him up. Twelve gave him a dozen roses, but Zero just sneezed and sighed. Thirteen gave him a baker's dozen of bagels. Zero rejected it. Two gave him a pair of tennis shoes, and once again it was rejected.
       Everyone huddled up at the park and put their heads together to figure out what could be wrong with Zero. Everyone except One, that is. One had an idea. He walked over to Zero, and showed him the new action figures he got from Numbers R' Us.
       "I know whats wrong, Zero," One said.
       "You do?" asked Zero.
       "Yes," replied One. "You're upset because you're Zero. You think that you're the lesser of the numbers. But you're not. What number is the captain of the Multiplication Squad? Zero. What number is the president? Zero."
       Zero smiled. He felt better, thanks to One. If it weren't for him, Zero would be sitting on his porch all day, moping.
       Meanwhile, the other numbers were putting their plan into place, not knowing that Zero was happy again. When they were walking towards Zero, talking about their plan, reviewing their lines, they saw Zero smiling. They were surprised! After One explained the whole thing, they bought some ice cream. They really enjoyed it!

* Prizes

The first place prize is a Math Cats T-shirt. The first through fourth place entries receive large Math Cats certificates.

* We're helping a special friend of Math Cats, too!

Wendy of Math Cats is making a donation to the IFOPA in honor of the first place winner and in honor of Jasmin Floyd, a young friend of Math Cats. You can learn about this worthy cause on the main contest page.

back to the main contest page

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