### See You Later Alligator

I had posted this article back on May of 2011, but as I view products on Pinterest, I feel a need to revisit it.  I've seen alligators, fish, movable Popsicle sticks, etc. as ways to teach greater than or less than.   Even though these are a good visual tools, to be honest, there are no alligators or even fish in mathematics.

Because many students still fail to understand this concept, here is a different approach which you might wish to try.   First of all, every child knows how to connect dots.  So let’s use that approach.

Suppose we have two numbers 8 and 3.  Ask the students, “Which number is greater?"  Yes, 8 is greater.  Let’s put two dots beside that number.   8 :   Now ask, “Which number is smaller or represents the least amount?"  You are right again.  Three is smaller.  Let’s put one dot beside (in front of) that number.  Now have the students connect the dots.....

8 > 3

It will work every time! When two numbers are equal, put two dots beside each number and connect the dots to make an equal sign.

What makes this method a little different is that the students can visually see which number is greater because it has the most dots beside it; so when reading the number sentence, it is usually read correctly.

In a free handout, entitled Number Tiles - Activities for the Primary Grades, is a greater than and less than activity which can be used over and over again.  Just click on the blue title for your free copy.

Melissa Case said...

Cool, do you have any tricks for helping them learn how to "read" the symbols, or how to remember that < is less than and > is greater than?

Shelley Streitenberger said...

I love this! As a Kindergarten teacher, we do use the alligator (after realizing they have no idea who/what "pacman" is). This will be another way to help them remember the greater than and less than signs! Keep the great tips coming :)

Laura said...

I've always used the alligator, but love the dots trick too! Thanks!

Mrs. Burke said...

Love that explanation. Every year, at the 6th and 7th grade level, students come to me and cannot identify the "greater than" or the "less than" sign if there are no numbers beside them. I spend a great deal of time and review making sure they can identify them even without numbers. I use the reading left to right comparison. If you come to the open or big side first, it is greater than. If you come to the point or small side first, it is less than. Do you have another trick for this?

Scipi said...

I have my college students (remedial math) actually put the two dots and the one dot on the < an > signs. They then know that if two dots are first, it means greater than and if the one dot is first, it is less than.

Andrea Lowery said...

I had an "AHA moment" reading your post. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for sharing this.

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