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See You Later Alligator

I originally posted this article back on May of 2011, but as I view products on Pinterest, I feel a need to revisit it. I have seen alligators, fish, movable Popsicle sticks, etc. as ways to teach greater than or less than. Even though these may be good visual tools, to be honest, there are no alligators or even fish in mathematics.
Because many students still fail to understand which way the symbol is placed, here is a different method 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, most of the time it is read correctly.

Free Resource

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 title to download your free copy.