Comparing two numbers using greater than and less than symbols is a Common Core skill for first grade. It means that students should be able to look at a pair of given numbers, decide which one is less and which one is greater, and be able to use the symbols (< or >) to compare them. We made really cute alligator stick puppets to introduce this idea to us. We had the puppets mouth “eat” the bigger number and the students loved being able to use the puppet to practice comparing numbers. But…. what could be do after that? The students needed more practice on this topic, but would other things could we do besides boring worksheets?
I looked around the room thinking about what we could use to help us practice and that’s when I spied with my little eye: the dominos! What a fun, easy way to compare two numbers! It was very simple: The students got a pile of dominos with a partner. They flipped them all over so they couldn’t see the dots. Then they took turns flipping the dominos over and comparing the two numbers on that domino.
So, if the domino they flipped over had 3 dots on one side and 2 on the other, they would compare those two numbers and say to each other things like, “2 is less than 3” or “3 is greater than 2”. It was also a great time to introduce = because about 1 minute into the game, a hand went into the air asking, “But, what do we do if the number is the same!?” We took the time to explain the = sign and how it means that the numbers are equal because they are the same!
As a teacher, I love things like this because they require little to no planning, it’s very easy for the students to understand, and they are having fun while they learn! I think it’s very important for them to learn from each other and also learn while “doing”, both things this game does.
The next day, we played another game to practice this skill- this time with dice! I passed out the worksheets (interested teachers can buy this pack here: Greater than/less than bundle) The worksheet had a blank box, a circle, and another blank box. The students job was to use the dice to roll the 2 numbers they would be comparing. The students rolled one time (wrote down the number they got), rolled again (wrote down the number they got), and then used their pencils to write the comparing symbols, either <, >, or =.
The students really loved playing this game. It was fun for them to roll the dice to pick the 2 numbers and kept them very engaged.
This could easily have been adapted to be played with a partner too. One person could roll and write down one number, while the partner could roll and write down the other number.
These are just 2 simple ways to practice greater than, less than, or equal to in your classroom. They kept my first graders engaged, working, and having fun! Have you tried other things in your class for this skill? How did your students like it?