COMMENT: It is very important
for a student to look at the symbol and say it without hesitation.
If
there is any hesitation, you must practice the skill worksheet. Our apologies for the long comment here, but the teaching of these symbols
creates serious problems in most school classrooms. First, the < symbol means "less than," while the > symbol means "more
than." They are supposed to be used for comparing the value of numbers.
Before you start working with actual problems it is highly
recommended to first teach the meaning of the symbols by saying their
actual name. Some teachers jump right into using the symbols with numbers without teaching the true meaning and name of the symbols.
They get around this by telling the students they can get the problems
correct if they "pretend the symbol is an alligator and have its
mouth bite the bigger number." While this trick enables the
student to get the correct answer, it does absolutely nothing to
teach what the symbol itself actually means! Our goal here folks is
to teach that both <> symbols actually mean something so students can
compare the value of two numbers and not simply play a meaningless game
that the wider end of a symbol is going to gobble up a number.
In other words, when your student sees a less than < symbol, he or
she should be able to say that it actually means less than and not
a backwards more than symbol with its wider end biting the bigger
number. It is essential that your student can see a math sentence
such as
5 < 7 and be able to say the words "5 is less than 7"
rather than just,
"the alligator (wider end of the symbol) bites the 7." You can imagine how much
confusion this would generate with larger problems and more in depth math
concepts. If you are going to use a "trick" to help students get
correct answers, the best one is "Left is Less"  "Right
is More," which associates the meaning of the symbol with its
orientation as an arrow. So, before using the symbol to compare
numbers, lets see if the true meaning of the symbol is mastered. Do
not take the easy way out and use a trick that gets the right answer, but does nothing to teach this critically
important math concept. Our initial < > worksheet for this skill will
greatly help with learning the name of these symbols.
