Q:

What is the role of 0 as a placeholder in numbers?

A:

Quick Answer

When 0 is used as a placeholder, it allows people to write numbers in shorthand and tell them apart. For example, the number 509 is shorthand for "5 times 100, plus 0 times 10 plus 9 times 1." Since zero adds no value to the 10's place, it can be used as a placeholder there, creating the possibility of the shorter notation.

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Full Answer

Without placeholders, there would be no way to write numbers in shorthand notation, and also no way to tell them apart. For example, without 0 as a placeholder, the numbers 59, 5009 and 5090 cannot be written in short form.

When 0 is used as a leading 0, it can safely be removed. For example, in the number 0509, the first 0 can be removed without changing the value of the number while the second 0 cannot because it is a placeholder.

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