Less Than Zero

a MathStart series book

by Stuart Murphy; illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz

In Less Than Zero, Penguin Perry wants an ice scooter, but needs nine clams he needs to buy one. He decides to do odd jobs to earn the money and uses a line graph to track his progress. Unfortunately, he seems to lose and spend as much as he earns!  Will Penguin Perry eventually earn enough? 

The main purpose of this Math Start story book is to help teach negative numbers, but since Penguin Perry graphs his progress toward his goal, this is also a helpful title for teaching graphing. Thus, while this is not one of our top picks for children's books about graphing, if you plan to teach negative numbers and graphing, this book will do double duty quite nicely! 

As with all MathStart books, the final spread includes discussion points for your read aloud and extension activities about graphing and negative numbers.

This book is one of the MathStart series books. Many teachers really like the MathStart series for adding a literacy component to math lessons. (With the time pressures in the classroom, opportunities for cross-curricular activities is always welcome, right?) For the most part, the Math Start stories are funny and cute...and quite effective for teaching the specific math concept being targeted. You can learn more about this great series of books by clicking on the link above.

Less Than Zero
Reading Level

Interest Level: Grade 2-5
DRA Level: 28
Lexile Level: 620L       
Grade Level Equiv: 2.6

Guided Reading: M

Read-Aloud vs. Individual Reading:
For kids in second grade, this book will need to be a read-aloud rather than for individual reading, as children generally do not read on the reading level (difficulty level) of this book until near the end of second grade. The majority of third graders and older kids should be able to read this book independently.

**Note: The publishers listed the interest level as grades 2-3, but since the concept of negative numbers is taught and retaught in older grades, we have bumped the interest level up to grades 2-5.  (But we teach the younger grades, so if we are wrong about this, please let us know. :) )

See Inside Less Than Zero

Below are sample spreads from inside this book--showing the illustration style, the general amount of text per page, and the graphing focus in the book.  Kids will like the cartoony illustration style (even if, in truth, it's not our favorite).

MathStart series books