Number Sense: Comparing Numbers

Number sense is the ability to understand the relationship between numbers.  It involves knowing place value and recognizing number words.  Another concept that increases number sense is comparing numbers with each other.

Comparing Basics

When a child compares numbers, they are deciding if a number is greater than, less than, or equal to another number.  Special math symbols are used to indicate these relationships. > stands for greater than, < stands for less than, and = indicates that one number is equal to another number.

Simple Comparing

Generally, children who are first learning to compare numbers need to start with hands-on comparing.  Any small toy can be used as a manipulative.  Make two groups of the toys.  Have your child count each group and write the numbers down.  Then have your child decide which group is bigger and write the correct symbol between the numbers.  (Its fun to tell kids that the mouth of the symbol always eats the bigger number!) You can also practice using a number line to compare numbers. After a while, your child should be able to compare numbers without using any aids like toys or number lines.

Harder Comparing

Once your child gets the hang of comparing one digit numbers with out any toys or a number line, it is time to move on to comparing bigger numbers.  Start with two digit numbers.  Write down two numbers and have your child choose the bigger number and fill in the correct symbol.  From there, you can move on to three and four digit number comparing.

Advanced Comparing

You can incorporate a little place value practice into your comparing by varying the ways in which you write the numbers.  For example, have your child compare a word form number with a number written in standard form. (Ninety-two > 76)  Or they could compare word form with expanded form. (thirty-two < 40 + 8)  Another way to make comparing more challenging is by changing the number length.  Compare a three digit number and a four digit number.  Help your child to recognize that the number with the most digits is always the biggest number.

Comparing numbers can be fun if children understand it, but it is also an important part of developing number sense.  In the next post, we will discuss another aspect of number sense – deconstructing numbers.

How do you help your child practice comparing numbers?

Check Smart Tutor Elementary Math Curriculum and Free Math Games

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