Thursday, January 23, 2014

Greater Than, Less Than

Greater than, less than!

It came to my attention this week that Me Too was having trouble putting the greater-than/less-than symbols in a math puzzle book that he was playing with.  I was certain he understood the concept but there was obviously a disconnect somewhere.  I threw together a few of these alligators that I saw on Pre-K and K Sharing and resolved to ferret out the problem.

Here is they all are nestled in their basket.

I didn't know exactly where the problem lay, so we started very simply.  I kind of wish I had taken the time to make some little raw, rancid chicken counters (gator bait) but we all do what we can.

Kal-El sat in on the lesson too so I gave a lot of variations to keep it interesting.  

I figured we had better go over "equal to" while we were at it.  The boys thought this "2=2" was just so silly and couldn't imagine why anyone would use an equal sign in that way (just wait boys, just wait).

They thought this variation was a little more useful.

I used the number tiles from the multiplication board because they offered a good variety of quantities (if not an adequate degree of legibility).  The boys enjoyed labeling chains of quantities like this.  Yet, I STILL hadn't found the problem, until...

...I tried switching from alligators to ACTUAL greater-than/less-than symbols.  We have a bunch of wooden ones in our symbols box.  Me Too, who had made NO errors thus far, put EVERY symbol in backwards on the next chain I had him label.  He did not understand, even after I re-explained it, the relationship between the symbol and the alligator.  

We went back to labeling with alligators.

Then we carefully matched the wooden symbols to the alligators.

Finally, we removed the alligators and slid the wooden symbols into their place.

SUCCESS!  After a few rounds in this manner Me Too was able to label chains of quantities without using the alligators at all.  This afternoon he got out his math puzzle book and demonstrated his new mad skills.  He said, "Mom, this makes even MORE sense today than yesterday."

I'm extra pleased because one of my earliest memories of school is failing miserably at this and being made to feel really st**** by a teacher for not being able to do this. 


  1. I really like how the boys math introduced these symbols. They had them put one dot near the smaller number and two dots near the greater number than they connected the dots. Since it was clear that one dot is less than two dots they did not have any problem at all!

  2. I was one of those children who totally "got" this concept from the get-go, but I remember working with classmates who didn't get it right away and the teacher was, well, less than helpful about it. Here I was, the shy introvert, teaching my classmates at recess!

    I love Montessori and I love homeschooling - so we can do just what you did above - catch any missed concepts, modify for their particular needs and move forward, with anyone feeling like they are less of a person just because a concept needs to be learned. :)

  3. We have also used 'alligator' math and Miss Priss really enjoyed it! I am looking forward to seeing Bug have fun with it as well! Where did you get the wooden symbols?

    1. Amy, It's called an "arithmetic signs box" and mine is from iFit. You can get them lots of other places, but they all look a little different from one another. Some even come with parentheses!

    2. Thank you so much! I will be sure to check them out :)

  4. Now I am intrigued! You need to post about this Math puzzle book you are talking about in all the posts!

  5. This is neat! I was laughing at Jessica's comment, this was one of the few concepts in math that I actually caught on real quick too. The only problem I had was remembering the way to put the alligators mouth. I most certainly knew what number was greater but confused the heck out of my teacher when I had to write it out, and me too.

  6. Yes, completely relate. I was humiliated when I didn't get this concept right away. Then I was to embarrassed to keep asking the teacher for more help after the way she treated me. It worked great with my son too. I just told them it was a very hungry alligator and he always eats the biggest number, because you know... it's the biggest. ;) Made sense to him.

  7. There must be something about this skill that brought out "the nasty" in teacher's back in the 80's.

  8. Thanks for linking to my Greater Than Less Than Alligator Math post at PreK + K Sharing! I loved reading about the steps you used to make greater than and less than clear for your son. :)