Real-World Integers

Contributor: Erika Wargo. Lesson ID: 12699

Isn't "integer" just a fancy word for "number"? How can a number be less than zero? We are "positive" you will answer these questions and more as you work with these special numbers you see every day!


Integers/Rational Numbers and Operations

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!


The weatherman said the temperature outside is below zero. What does that mean? How can a number be “below zero”?

Integers are a special set of whole numbers.

Integers include the counting numbers, such as 1, 2, 3, and their opposites, such as -1, -2, -3, and the number zero (0).

As you watch a video to learn more about integers, answer the following in your math journal:

  • In your own words, explain the meaning of an integer.
  • What types of numbers are not integers?
  • What numbers are used to represent values less than zero?

Discuss the questions above with a parent or teacher after you watch, What is an integer? PBSMathClub:


Integers are used to represent real-life situations. Fractions and decimals are not integers. Integers are used to represent many situations in the real world, such as temperature, location above or below sea level, and gain and loss of money.

  • Positive integers are numbers greater than zero.
  • Negative integers are numbers less than zero.

Review the table below to identify key words associated with each type of situation involving integers:

positive negative zero
increase decrease broke even
rise fall at sea level
add/plus drop tie score
more subtract/minus no change
deposit withdraw  
gain loss/less  


When naming and reading positive integers, the positive sign is not usually written or read. The numbers 3 and +3 mean the same thing and would be read as “three.”

When reading a negative integer, such as (-9), the sign in front of the number is read as “negative.” It is not a subtraction symbol.

(-5) is read as “negative five.”

“The opposite of 5” is read as “negative five.”

However, sometimes the word “minus” is used, especially when talking about temperature. You may hear someone say that it is “minus 5 degrees outside.” Minus is usually used in a subtraction problem, but depending on the situation in which it is used, it can also mean a number has a negative value. It is best to read a number with a negative value as “negative,” not minus.

Example: Represent each situation with an integer. Click on the example in the interactive to view the solution:

In your math journal, write a response to the following:

  1. What is an example of a positive integer and a negative integer?
  2. Which integer is neither positive or negative?

In the Got It? section, you will practice identifying integers to represent real-world situations through interactive practice.

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