Before calculators, if we spotted a zero as one of the
multipliers, we thought something along the lines of: “Woohoo! Less work for
me!” With today’s students a multiplier
of zero barely registers. I swear I have had this exact conversation with
multiple students:

Student: (busily
using a calculator to multiply a long string of numbers)

Me: Sweetie, STOP.

Student: (looks up)

Me: There’s a zero in
there.

Student: Huh?

Me: All of those
numbers you are multiplying. One of them
is a zero.

Student: Ok. (goes back to multiplying)

Me: STOP.

Student: (looks up)

Me: If you multiply
something by zero what do you get?

Student: (long
pause) Zero?

Me: Exactly!

Student (gives me a look that says plainly, “And that
applies to my life, how?”)

Me: So you are going
to multiply along and get some number. You are going to multiply that number by
this zero. You will get zero. You will
multiply that zero by this number and get zero, and so on. What will you have at the end?

Student: Zero?

Me: So write it down,
and MOVE ON!

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