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Positive & Negative Numbers

A number greater than 0 is positive. On the number line, positive numbers are to the right of 0. A number less than 0 is negative. On the number line, negative numbers are to the left of 0. Zero is the only number that is neither positive nor negative; it divides the two sets of numbers. On the number line, numbers increase to the right and decrease to the left.

The expression x > y means that x is greater than y. In other words, x is to the right of y on the number line:



We usually have no trouble determining which of two numbers is larger when both are positive or one is positive and the other negative (e.g., 5 > 2 and 3.1 > –2). However, we sometimes hesitate when both numbers are negative (e.g., –2 > –4.5). When in doubt, think of the number line: if one number is to the right of the number, then it is larger. As the number line below illustrates, –2 is to the right of –4.5. Hence, –2 is larger than –4.5.

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