Greater Gator

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SWBAT use the inequality symbols to compare 2 numbers.

Big Idea

This lesson introduces students to the inequality symbols while playing a game called Greater Gator!

Warm Up

5 minutes

Students complete this quick warm up before starting this lesson. This warm up has students practicing the language "greater than" and "less than". It also allows them some practice of choosing multiple correct answers, a skill they will need on the PARCC assessment. Having students select all the correct answers has them practice justifying answers.

Traditional multiple choice just asks them to identify the one that is right. Once they find the correct one, the others don't matter! Students have to go through each of these answers to make sure they get all of the numbers that fit the description.

See attached document (2 per page!)

Setting Up the Learning

5 minutes

CCSS Context:
In first grade, students are expected to be able to use comparison symbols and provide reasoning for WHY one number is greater or less than another. In this lesson, students practice using the symbol.


We talked about how we decide if a number is greater or less than. Today we are going to talk about a symbol that we can use to show that a number is greater or less than


In math, we often use symbols to represent the words we are using. Just like when we use a +, - and = sign in our number sentences. You will use the symbols we learn today even in high school!


Your goal today is to use the symbols, <, > and = to show the relationship between two numbers.

Opening Discussion

10 minutes

I have a really hungry alligator here-he is so so hungry that he always eats the biggest number because that fills him up more. We have a silly song that we sing when we decide what number he is going to eat.

  • See attached Alligator Chant chart for the poem we use. This is a great way to connect some basic poetry to math, particularly because this little rhyme is full of sight words and phonics patterns!

The hungry alligator always eats the greater number. There are a few things we have to do to figure out which way the alligator needs to face. 

1. Look at both numbers.

2. Circle the greater number.

3. Make the alligator eat the bigger number.

I am going to go through all these steps on one of my own. Then I will need your help.

I’ll use numbers under 10 to introduce these symbols: 7 ___ 9

Let’s go through our steps together:

1. Look at both numbers.

  • What numbers do we have here? Let’s read them together.

2. Circle the greater number.

  • What strategies could we use to figure out the bigger number? Students review greater than/less than strategies from earlier in the unit.

  • Which number should I circle?

3. Make the alligator eat the greater number.

Think Aloud: “I know the greater number is 9. So I have to make the alligator’s mouth open towards the 9. Because that alligator likes to eat the bigger number.”

I'll show 3 gator to the students and have them choose which gator I need to put in the middle of 7 and 9. The gator image I love to use can be found here. I love this one because it includes a gator for equal to! I tell my kiddos that the equal gator just can't decide which one to eat! 

Guided Practice

15 minutes

I’ll give students a statement for them to write on their whiteboards. I use whiteboards often throughout my day in first grade because it gives every student an opportunity to practice and gives me a chance to gather some quick formative data on what that student understands.


1. Statement: I give a statement (35 is ____ 53)

2. Whiteboard: Students write on whiteboard and choose the alligator that makes the statement true.

3. Partner talk: Do you and your partner agree? Why did you choose that symbol? This gets at MP3, Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others. Students have to be able to give reasons for why they chose a given symbol. This gives them an opportunity to make connections to the counting sequence or to their knowledge of base 10 (3 tens is less than 5 tens).

4. Chorally practice “reading it” like a sentence (35 is less than 53) to review yesterday’s work.

Intervention support: Use smaller numbers OR provide cubes for those students to build each number and then choose the symbol.

Independent Practice

15 minutes


1. Students pull two number cards. You can use the Place Value Top It cards from earlier in this unit, check them out here. Or you can get free number cards to 120 if you need a set. They are free on Megan Watts' Teachers Pay Teachers page. Click here!

2. Students record both numbers on the Greater Gator Recording Sheet. 

3. Students record the <, > or = sign.

You can get the Greater Gator recording sheet for free on Kimberly Santana's Teachers Pay Teachers page! Click here!

 See attached Greater Gator Student Video for an example of a student working on this activity. 


5 minutes

Students come back together and I present them with two numbers and my "answer". I'll intentionally answer this incorrectly. I'll ask: Is this true or false? 

This discussion prepares students for our next lesson, where they will prove if statements are true or false on their own (MP3). You can find that lesson here.