Activities to Teach Students to Compare Rational Numbers

Rational numbers, which are numbers that can be expressed as a fraction, are an essential concept in mathematics. Comparing rational numbers is a skill that students must master to understand how fractions interact and work together. Teaching students to compare rational numbers requires careful planning and the use of effective teaching strategies.

Here are some activities that educators can use to teach students how to compare rational numbers.

Activity 1: Using Number Lines

One way to teach students to compare rational numbers is by using number lines. Educators can explain that rational numbers are placed on a horizontal line and that the numbers to the right are greater than those on the left.

After that, the teacher will provide students with a set of rational numbers and ask them to plot them on the number line in increasing order from left to right. This simple exercise provides students with initial experience in identifying the relationship between different fractions and their relative positions on the number line.

Activity 2: Fraction War

Fraction war is a popular game that teaches students about comparing fractions, decimals, and percents. This activity is easy to set up—simply provide students with a deck of cards that contains fractions. Each pair of students will be given one deck of cards.

Students will then flip over two cards and compare the fraction on each card. The student that has the largest fraction gets to keep both cards. The game will continue until all the cards have been used. This activity is an enjoyable way for students to zoom in on how to compare rational numbers and remember it easily.

Activity 3: Using Real-World Problems

When educators provide students with real-world examples, the students are more motivated and engaged in solving the problems. For instance, explaining how different food recipes require a combination of rational number amounts, such as fractions and decimals, which students are typically familiar with, provides an excellent starting point for the activity. Students need to learn how to compare rational numbers so that they can successfully evaluate which recipe requires more or less of specific ingredients.

In the activity, teachers will give students several word problems that require the comparison of rational numbers. One example is, “Sam needs to buy flour to make bread. He can buy a 5-pound bag for $2.50 or 2-pound bag for $1. Which bag of flour is more expensive per pound?” Students then use their understanding of rational numbers to compare the prices of each bag.

Activity 4: Sudoku Fractions

Sudoku, typically a logic-based puzzle, can be used for teaching comparing rational numbers. In this activity, teachers will provide students with a set of color-coded grids that include fractions. The fractions in the same color require the students to compare and sort them appropriately to complete the grid.

For example, if the red cells contain fractions, then students will need to ensure that each row and columns total 1 for the fractions in the red cells to try and complete the grid successfully. The activity encourages students to think critically and leverage their understanding of rational numbers to compare and know which fractions fit in each cell.


Teaching students how to compare rational numbers is essential in developing their mathematical skills. Using activities that are both engaging and applicable to real-life situations will help students understand rational numbers and their differences associated with fractions, decimals, and percentages in real-world settings. Through practical activities and games that provide clear instructions across visual, auditory, and kinesthetic modalities, educators can teach students this crucial skill effectively. 

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