TEACHING OF NUMERATION 329
I have designed two trays each divided into five little compartments. At the back of each compartment may be placed a card bearing a figure. The figures in the first tray should be 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, and in the second, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.
The exercise is obvious; it consists in placing within the compartments a number of objects corresponding to the figure indicated upon the card at the back of the compartment. We give the children various objects in order to vary the lesson, but chiefly make use of large wooden pegs so shaped that they will not roll off the desk. We place a number of these before the child whose part is to arrange them in their places, one peg corresponding to the card marked one, etc When he has finished he takes his tray to the directress that she may verify his work.
The Lesson on Zero. We wait until the child, pointing to the compartment containing the card marked zero, asks, " And what must I put in here ?" We then reply, " Nothing; zero is nothing." But often this is not enough. It is necessary to make the child feel what we mean by nothing. To this end we make use of little games which vastly entertain the children. I stand among them, and turning to one of them who has already used this material, I say, " Come, dear, come to me zero times." The child almost always comes to me, and then runs back to his place. " But, my boy, you came one time, and I told you to come zero times." Then he begins to wonder. " But what must I do, then ? " " Nothing; zero is nothing." " But how shall I do nothing ? " " Don't do anything. You must sit still. You must not come at all, not any times. Zero times. No times at all." I repeat these exercises until the children understand, and they are then immensely amused at remaining quiet when I call to them to come to me zero times, or to throw me zero kisses.