Greater Than, Less Than, Equal To

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SWBAT use the terms "greater than", "Less than" and "equal to" appropriately in sentences about numbers.

Big Idea

Students prepare to use the >, < and = symbols in this lesson focused on inequality language!

Warm up

10 minutes

Wake up students' math brains with this quick warm up! This warm up is a great way to review key math vocabulary as well as practice test taking skills. On the PARCC assessment, students will be asked to find multiple correct answers. This rigorous question type has students judge whether or not all options are correct, rather than having them just look for one correct answer. This little warm up prepares them to do this!

See attached Greater Than Warm Up document!

Setting Up the Learning

5 minutes

In this lesson, students practice academic vocabulary throughout. This is one of the key shifts to the Common Core-students are expected to use high level academic vocabulary even at the younger grades! You'll notice that I use "compare", "greater than", "less than", "equal to", etc. throughout the lesson. These terms will also help them communicate their mathematical thinking more precisely (MP6).

Review past learning:

Yesterday we practiced using the words “greater than”, “less than” and “equal to”. Today we are going to practice writing sentences about our number comparisons. (Review meanings of greater than/less than/equal to) 

Connect to real world:

When we compare numbers, we have to make sure we always read it like a sentence, from left to right. Then we can communicate what we know about numbers using words and writing. 


Your thinking job is: How can I use words to compare two numbers?



Opening Discussion

15 minutes

Present story problem: Giving students a story problem allows them to have a real life example to work with. Common Core emphasizes using problem based approaches in all parts of math. This is a great example of using a problem even when you are not doing an Operations and Algebraic Thinking standard. 

Alex has 70 pennies in his piggy bank. Alton has 84 pennies in his piggy bank.


Partner talk: Who has the greatest number of pennies? Who has the least?


Fill in the sentence: 70 is _________ than 84. I need to make this sentence make sense. I need to use the words “greater than”, “less than” or “equal to”.

  • I’ll model reading the sentence with each phrase to see which one makes sense.

Think Aloud:  

  • I am going to write 70 is greater than 84. Do you agree or disagree with that statement?

  • Partner talk: Do you agree or disagree with that statement? Why?


I’m going to give you 5 minutes to prove to me if I am right or wrong. Then we will come back together.

Student Share

10 minutes

I'll bring students back together to share their thinking. Allowing them a safe place to practice disagreeing with me instead of having to start with disagreeing with a peer is one way to help them practice MP3,"Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others."

Guiding Questions after students work to “prove” it:

  • But 84 is greater! So I’ll write greater. Why do I have to write least?
  • How do you know 70 is a smaller number? How do you know 84 is greater?
  • If students are struggling, model going through it like a sentence. I have to start with the first number and say it first.


Restate: I have to write less because I read it like a sentence. I have to think about how the first number compares to the other number. The first number here is the one that is less, so less than makes sense here.


Independent Practice

15 minutes

Students get 2 copies of place value cards so that there are duplicates. Teacher can have them precut and students pull 2 cards or students can cut out cards and glue them down. 


1. Pull two cards. Glue them down.

2. Write the numbers that match the cards.

3. Read it like a sentence: Do you need greater than or less than?

You can get a free copy of the Place Value Top It cards I used from this Teachers Pay Teachers store.
The Recording Sheet.pdf is attached!
Also, check out the quick Student Explanation Video of a little girl explaining what words to circle as she works on her recording sheet. 


5 minutes

We will keep practicing MP3, "Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others", as we finish the lesson. Students share their first set of cards with their partner. Their partners “agree” or “disagree” with their statement. The partners practice explaining why they agree or disagree.