Intention is like zeros added to a basic number.
The Seer of Lublin is said to have interpreted the verse “The Lord shall count in the register of the nations” (Psalms 87:6) in this spirit.
Whereas the digit zero appears in the number systems of other nations, no Hebrew letter corresponds to the zero.
If a person prays, learns Torah, or performs a mitzvah without intent, he is recorded “in the register of nations”–with a zero.
But when he prays, learns Torah, or performs a mitzvah with intent, a number is placed before all of the zeros he has amassed.
–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz