Inexpensive and Versatile, Math and Numbers, STEM Resources, Tips and Tricks

Jaw Biting Math! Teaching More Than and Less Than…

When most people think of math, they think numbers, symbols, and equations. But math also requires a great deal of understanding of language. Think about how many math word problems you used to solve and also how important it is to understand what symbols represent and how to read an equation left to right just like in a book! I worked on a game with my kids to teach the concept of ‘more than’ and ‘less than’.

I’ve been working quite a bit on various math word problems with my kids over this summer. Recently, we’ve been talking about the concept of “more than” and “less than”. This week is ‘Shark Week’. For those of you not familiar with it, “Shark Week” is an annual TV programming block on the Discovery Channel dedicated to Sharks. So in honor of Shark Week, we made some cute little shark heads with a mouth that opens and closes! Then we used them to play a game about ‘more than’ and ‘less than’.

To make the shark like we made, you need:

  • Construction paper (2 colors, we used white and blue)
  • Scissors
  • Black marker (to dot the eye)
  • Glue stick
  • Round head paper fastener

How to make it:

  • Cut the top and bottom halves of the shark, the teeth, and eyes with the construction paper and scissors.
  • Use the black marker to dot the eye ball.
  • Glue it together with your glue stick to make your shark – except keep the bottom and top jaw separated.
  • Push the round head paper fastener through the top and bottom jaws and fasten.

Once you have your shark, grab a dice and goldfish crackers and get ready to play!

Steps to play:

  • Both of my children played together, so each child rolled the dice and told me how many dots were on the dice. This particular step helps children with subitizing (identifying a number of elements in a set).
  • Each child then counted out that same number of goldfish crackers and placed then in a pile in front of them. This step helped my youngest daughter in particular work on counting one object at a time.
  • Then, I explained that our shark wanted to eat the larger pile of fish and they need to face his mouth in the right direction. Then I asked the child that rolled first, several questions like: Which pile has more? Is [first number rolled] greater than or less than [second number rolled]?
  • After answering, that child moved the sharks mouth toward the larger pile and we repeated the word problem like this: So, [first number rolled] is [greater than / less than] [second number rolled]. For example, if number 5 was rolled first followed by 3, we would rephrase the problem to “So, 5 is greater than 3. Right?”

After we completed several rounds, I showed my oldest daughter the symbols for greater than (>) and less than (<). She was able to connect the reference of the sharks mouth to the symbols themselves. Since she is reading as well now, I gave her a small trick – the less than symbol (<) actually looks a little bit like the letter ‘L’ in the word ‘Less’.

I hope that this helps give you some ideas on teaching your children early math concepts related to language! I personally feel it’s so important to help children develop these skills early to ensure future success in STEM subjects.

-Kristen

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