  Math Topics

# What Does Negative Numbers Mean?

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Up to this point, you have learned about the positive integers, which are the ones to the right of the $0$ in the picture below. Now, you will start learning about the integers to the left of the $0$ in the picture below. These numbers are called negative numbers. A negative number has a short line in front of it, just like the numbers to the left of the $0$ in the picture. This line tells you that the number is a negative number. For example, the number minus three ($-3$) is made up of two symbols, one line $-$ and a number $3$. When you put the line and the number together, you get the negative number $-3$. On the real line, the number $-3$ is just as far from $0$ as the number $3$. The difference is that they are on opposite sides of $0$.

The line you see in front of negative numbers is called a minus sign. This minus sign tells you that you’re dealing with a negative number. The minus you know from earlier is a subtraction minus. It’s an operator that tells you to subtract one number from another number. It’s really important to know the difference between a subtraction minus and a minus sign.

Example 1

Which of the numbers below are negative numbers?

 $1\phantom{\rule{1em}{0ex}}-2\phantom{\rule{1em}{0ex}}8\phantom{\rule{1em}{0ex}}10\phantom{\rule{1em}{0ex}}-15\phantom{\rule{1em}{0ex}}32\phantom{\rule{1em}{0ex}}-21\phantom{\rule{1em}{0ex}}-1$

$-2$, $-15$, $-21$ and $-1$ are negative numbers, because they have a minus sign.

Is 0 a positive or a negative number? Or is it neither?

The number $0$ sits right between positive and negative numbers on the real line. For example, imagine that you give away $0$ chocolates or receive $0$ chocolates. You have neither more nor less chocolates than what you had before. For that reason, you can say that the number $0$ is both a negative and a positive number!

Example 2

Which of the numbers below are negative and which are positive?

23 190 -22 0 -1111 54 -2 3 104

The negative numbers (the ones to the left of $0$ on the real line) are the ones with a minus sign in front of them. That means that the numbers $-22$, $-1111$ and $-2$ are negative numbers. $0$ is also a negative number as it is both negative and positive.

The positive numbers (the numbers to the right of $0$ on the real line) don’t have a minus sign in front of them. That means that the numbers $23$, $190$, $54$, $3$ and $104$ are positive numbers. $0$ is also a positive number as it is both negative and positive.

In mathematics we use a specific symbol for infinity. It looks like the number eight lying down: $\infty$.