How to Teach Greater Than/Less Than With Pretzels

Bite size snacks are an easy, fun and helpful way to teach the concept of greater than and less than.
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"Greater than" and "less than" are mathematical terms and symbols used to compare quantities. Teaching these concepts with snacks keeps children engaged and helps them connect math skills to their real lives. Pretzels are a simple, nonperishable snack that can be used for a greater than/less than lesson plan. Send home a permission slip before using any foods to be sure no student has an allergy that would prevent her from participating.

1 Split up Students

Decide how to arrange your students. They can work independently or in partnerships. If your particular students tend to argue, have them work individually for this activity, as "greater than" and "less than" games can quickly spark disagreements and conflict. Explain the meaning of these terms. As a whole group, discuss associated concepts like more and less and large and small. Provide each student or partnership with a supply of pretzels in a main pile. Tell them they are not allowed to take or eat any pretzels unless instructed to do so.

2 Give Instructions

Tell students they will be playing a greater than/less than game with the pretzels. Begin stating instructions, one at a time, such as, "Take one pretzel from the main pile." If your students are in partnerships, you can name a partner A and partner B in each group, and instruct one partner at a time. For instance, say, "Partner A take one pretzel and partner B take two pretzels." After each instruction, ask a question about the amount of pretzels. Ask, "Is the number of pretzels you have greater than or less than the number of pretzels in the main pile?" For partnerships, ask, "Look at the number of pretzels partner A has. Is this number greater than or less than the number of pretzels partner B has?" Increase the numbers used, depending on the grade level you teach. You can also have children eat pretzels during this activity. For example, say, "Eat four pretzels from your pile. Is your number of pretzels now greater than or less than it was before?"

Rachel Pancare taught elementary school for seven years before moving into the K-12 publishing industry. Pancare holds a Master of Science in childhood education from Bank Street College and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Skidmore College.