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Less Than or Greater Than?

Less Than or Greater Than?


Today I was watching my daughter work on fraction comparison problems. She seemed to be struggling, so the adaptive computer program gave her more problems. But what the computer program couldn't see was why she was struggling.

It wasn't the fractions. She understood the fractions. It was the greater than and less than symbols. She was getting them confused.

Immediately I thought of that new math word: automaticity. My daughter had not developed automaticity with the comparison symbols. This meant that she was having to think really hard about what the symbols meant. She also had to think about the size of each fraction. 


Our brains can only work with a few pieces of information at once. My daughter's brain was on overload, so she was having difficulty with the task.

So, if you are teaching fractions this year, are you sure your students have mastered the comparison signs? Maybe you know they haven't. Maybe you can't understand why some of your students are struggling and this is a piece of the reason.

Either way, this is an easy fix. All the kids need is more practice with the comparison symbols. Practice without fractions. 

Here are some games kids can play to practice with the comparison symbols:

- Give kids two dice. Have them roll the dice and compare the two numbers using comparison symbols. They can record their work on a whiteboard or paper.

- Have kids grab two handfuls of beans. Have them compare the number of beans in each handful using comparison symbols. They can record their work on a whiteboard or paper.


- It is always helpful to me to remember that "the little number eats the big number." Have students draw faces around the comparison symbol. Most classrooms have a PacMan or an alligator for this purpose, but kids can make them into whatever they want. They can even tell a story about why their characters are so hungry.

- Set kids up to play War, but add a third stack of cards. These cards have the greater than and less than symbols on them. When the kids turn over their cards, also turn over a comparison card. If the statement is true one student gets the cards. If the statement is false, the other kid gets the cards. 

This is also a case where good old-fashioned worksheets would be helpful. Kids need practice to build automaticity.

To help your students build automaticity with the comparison symbols, I have created these nine worksheets. You can get them as a freebie!

Thanks so much for reading!

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