Kids Often Confuse Greater Than/Less Than: This Simple Switch Can Help


As a child, learning mathematical concepts such as greater than and less than can be challenging. It’s common for kids to mix up the two symbols and struggle to remember which is which when solving problems. Fortunately, a simple switch can help cement these important concepts in their minds, allowing them to excel in math with ease.

The confusion around greater than/less than

Greater than (>) and less than (<) are fundamental concepts in mathematics, where children have to compare numbers to determine their relative sizes. However, as young minds grapple with these abstract ideas, they often mix up the symbols or forget the rules associated with them. This confusion can impact their confidence in math and hinder progress in grasping more complex topics.

The culprit behind the confusion is often the visual similarity of the greater than and less than symbols (> and <), leaving kids puzzled about their meanings and applications.

Introducing the simple switch – The Alligator Rule

To overcome this challenge facing young learners, many educators use a technique known as “The Alligator Rule.” The rule personifies the greater than/less than symbols as hungry alligators that always want to eat the larger number.

Here’s how it works:

1. Present the greater than and less than symbols as open-mouthed alligators. For instance, “>” would look like an alligator with its mouth open to its left, while “<” would appear as an alligator facing right.

2. Teach children that hungry alligators always prefer to eat more food rather than less – they’ll always open their mouths toward the bigger number.

3. Relate this concept frequently when teaching children how to compare numbers using the greater than/less than symbols.

Why it works

Children are generally drawn to stories and characters that boost engagement, making learning more enjoyable. By equating math concepts with relatable narratives, such as hungry alligators, kids can more easily remember these symbols and their meaning.

The Alligator Rule provides a memorable visual representation that can help children understand the concepts of greater than and less than at a deeper level. When they come across mathematical problems or equations requiring comparative thinking, they can use this technique to figure out which symbol should be used intuitively.

In conclusion

Mathematics can be intimidating for young learners. By introducing a simple switch like “The Alligator Rule,” we offer them a fun way to understand and differentiate between the greater than/less than symbols. This approach boosts their self-confidence and solidifies the foundation they need for mastering complex mathematical concepts in the future.

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