Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Montessori-Inspired Greater Than Less Than Alligator Math

By Deb Chitwood from Living Montessori Now


Today, I have a Montessori-inspired activity that can be used for a number of different levels. It can be a fun way to refresh knowledge before the beginning of the school year, and it works well any time during the school year, too. You can also use it as a way to check and reinforce your child's understanding of numbers before kindergarten. It fits in well with the math activities in this post: Montessori-Inspired Kindergarten Readiness Activities.

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Greater Than Less Than Alligator Math

My own children enjoyed using the alligator concept to learn about greater than and less than. If you use hands-on materials, it can easily be used with preschoolers. I taught my kids that the alligator is greedy and always wants to eat the bigger number. His mouth opens toward the bigger number. When the numbers are the same, he can't decide which one to eat and closes his mouth, which makes the equals sign.

Montessori-Inspired Greater Than Less Than Alligator Tray

Greater Than Less Than Alligator Tray

While the "greater than" and "less than" alligator has been around for a long time, you can use Montessori ideas to create an activity your child or students can use when they choose.  You could either have the activity set up at a table, or place the tray on a shelf where it's easily accessible.

To put together the activity, I used the free alligator work station (which is very cute!) from The Littlest Scholars. I just used set 1 with the number 0-10. For more advanced students, you can use set 2 with the numbers 11-20. The Littlest Scholars also has a free "I Can Chart." If you want your students to write their answers in addition to doing the hands-on activity, there's a downloadable student recording sheet.

I made a craft-stick alligator based on the activity at One Extra Degree. I glued on craft foam for the teeth (although I'm sure you can do a much better job than my craft-challenged self!) and a craft googly eye for each alligator.

I wrote the words "greater than" and "less than" on the craft-stick alligators. I think it helps children make the transition to using the "greater than" and "less than" symbols in abstract form by using the words along with the alligator manipulatives.

I used a glass candle coaster for 18 pom poms (the largest number needed to work out the problems in set 1). You could add a sugar tong to transfer the pom poms if you'd like to add a practical life activity to the math tray. This activity also uses a large plastic tray and large hemmed work rug from Montessori Services.

Montessori-Inspired Greater Than Less Than Activity

When showing how to do the layout with the craft-stick alligator, I recommend placing the pom poms in rows of two with a leftover pom pom centered below the last row. It's a standard Montessori layout for cards and counters and gives a visual representation of odd and even. It also makes the larger number more obvious than a random placement of pom poms would. 

After placing the pom poms, craft-stick alligator, and symbol card in the layout, I would read the equation while pointing to each part of the equation. In this example, I'd say, "5 is greater than 3." You could just demonstrate examples for greater than, less than, and is equal to and let the children do however many they wish of the 12 cards. 

Greater Than Less Than Alligator Layout
 
Greater Than and Less Than Alligator Layout

Children who are comfortable with the quantities for each numeral could do a layout of the cards for set 1 or set 2 (or even all 24 cards). Be sure to have the correct number of each symbol needed for the layout. If you have exactly the number of greater than cards, less than cards, and equals symbol cards, that will serve as a control of error. You could write the correct symbols on the back of each large card as a more specific control of error, although most children will be able to place the alligator cards correctly and will discover any errors if the wrong card is left at the end.

More Greater Than Less Than Alligator Activities

You could create addition or subtraction equations and use the alligator cards to insert the "greater than" symbol, "less than" symbol, or equals symbol. I had a One Fish, Two Fish Addition Tray with some presentation tips for addition activities as well as Montessori-inspired ideas for presenting activities in general. 

A Learning Journey has a Montessori-inspired activity using the alligator manipulative to eat the larger math area.

Here are some YouTube videos with more Greater Than Less Than Alligator activities:
"Number Eating Alligator Song"
"Alligator greater than" (song) by Peter Weatherall
"Mr. Alligator" (chant) 
"Teacher Tipster (Greater Than and Less Than)" with an extension activity using a paper plate 
UPDATE: On July 15, 2014, I published "Montessori-Inspired Alligator Activities Using Free Printables" with many more free printables and alligator activities.

Have fun with your greater than less than alligators! :)

 




Living Montessori Now
Deb Chitwood
Deb Chitwood is a certified Montessori teacher with a master’s degree in Early Childhood Studies from Sheffield Hallam University in Sheffield, England. Deb taught in Montessori schools in Iowa and Arizona before becoming owner/director/teacher of her own Montessori school in South Dakota. Later, she homeschooled her two children through high school. Deb is now a Montessori writer who lives in Colorado Springs with her husband of 37 years and their cat of 11 years. She blogs at Living Montessori Now. 

Linked to Tuesday Tots, The Mommy Club Resources and Solutions at Milk and Cuddles and Crystal & Co. , Enchanted Thursdays, The Weekly Kid’s Co-op, Living Life Intentionally Linky Party, Preschool Corner, Saturday Show & Tell, Show-and-Share Saturday, The Sunday Showcase, Link & Learn, and Afterschool Link Party.

44 comments:

  1. I wish I had found your blog and posts years ago! Well, I found them now. How clear, simple to implement, helpful, educational, fun, and visually appealing! Carolyn

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    1. Thanks so much for your very sweet comment, Carolyn! I wish I would have had your awesome posts and printables years ago, too! Isn't it interesting how much more difficult it was to put together activities pre-Internet?! :)

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    1. Thanks so much, Cassie! You printable designers make life much more fun for those of us who can put together activities easily because of your printables! :)

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  3. Great idea! I'll will surely try this. The kids will love it. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks so much, Melinda! I hope your kids enjoy it! :)

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  4. Oh I LOVE the craft stick alligators!!! WAY CUTE!! That is how I learned it too =-)
    Beth

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    1. Thanks, Beth! It's fun that so many have learned this way! :)

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  5. How cute! The greater than less than alligator is how I learned greater than less than in school as well. I have noticed that most math curriculum's do not teach that math method anymore and I think it's a shame. That is how both of my children learned. I will I had seen this adorable idea though because you make it so much fun! Thanks for linking up to my Enchanted Thursdays Blog Hop!

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    1. Thanks so much! It's too bad if not as many math curriculums use the alligators. I love ways of teaching that make learning concepts fun and easy. Thanks for hosting Enchanted Thursdays! :)

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  6. I love this activity!! I also love your blog!
    Lynn-neveradullmoment.blogspo.com

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    1. Thanks so much, Lynn! I hope you have a great school year! :)

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  7. These are too cute and I love that it makes sense to kids! It took me forever to figure out greater than/less than and I think if someone had made this for me I would have understood so much faster.

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    1. Thanks, Erin! We didn't have the greater than less than alligators when I was in school either, and I think they would have made learning the concept so much easier for most kids ... and definitely more fun! :)

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  8. I will be featuring this at TGIF on Friday =-) Thanks for linking up - I always REALLY enjoy your posts!
    Beth

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    1. Thanks so much for your kind comment and for featuring my post, Beth! I always enjoy your posts, too! :)

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  9. This is awesome! I had the worst trouble understanding the greater than/less than concept when I was first introduced to it. It wasn't the concept that confused me as much as it was the sign. I didn't understand which direction the symbol should face! This should help kids with that, for sure.

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    1. Thanks, Alice! It's interesting that the alligator concept can make such a difference. I noticed that my kids had no trouble remembering which way to face the symbol after learning with the greater than and less than alligator. :)

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  10. Hi Deb,

    this is an amazing activity. Thank you so much for sharing it. I will be using this with my child.

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    1. Thanks, Cynthia! I hope your child enjoys it! :)

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  11. WONDERFUL - I will be creating something like this when I return to teaching every child I know has got confused with the normal signs this will make it much easier to understand.

    Thank you for linking up to Tuesday Tots this week.

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    1. Thanks, Cerys! I always loved the simplicity of this ... even preschoolers who can count objects and identify numerals can figure out where to put the greater than and less than symbols. :)

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  12. Thanks for sharing this great activity! I don't know much about Montessori but I sure love what I see on this blog:-)

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    1. Thanks so much, Lucie! If you'd like to learn more about Montessori, I have lots of links and information at http://livingmontessorinow.com/about-montessori/

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  13. What a fun way to teach math! Thanks for sharing this on Saturday Show and Tell. I hope you’ll be back again this week with some more great ideas!
    -Mackenzie
    http://www.cheeriosandlattes.com

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    1. Thanks so much, Mackenzie! I'll be there! :)

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  14. Deb-Thank you so much for mentioning the alligator area activity I posted on my blog (A Learning Journey). I really appreciate it. I should be in bed right now but I stayed up all night packing for an upcoming move. Hence the reason why I haven't been able to link-up at Montessori Monday ... missing it and wishing I had more free time.
    Tracey

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    1. It was my pleasure to mention your great activity, Tracey! Good luck with your move ... I know how time-consuming a move can be. I'll look forward to seeing you anytime you can link up at Montessori Monday. :)

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  15. Oh I love this way to teach greater and less than. So much fun. The crocodiles are inspired.

    Thanks for linking to the Sunday showcase.

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    1. Thanks for your kind comment, Rebecca ... and thanks for hosting the Sunday Showcase! :)

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  16. I love this! Lately my son has been walking around the Clubhouse announcing, "7 is greater than 4", "9 is less than 12".. and on and on, all day. This is a great little game to add to his already growing interest in greater than/less than. He'll love the alligator! Thanks for sharing :)

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    1. Thanks, Ms. Liz! The alligators should be perfect for your son ... he's definitely ready for them! :)

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  17. I have featured this on the Sunday Showcase: http://www.herecomethegirlsblog.com/2012/08/25/sunday-showcase-maths-fun.html

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    1. Thanks so much for featuring my post, Rebecca! :)

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  18. What a perfect addition to the alligator week we just had with afterschool. I'll be adding a link directly to this lesson for math ideas. Thanks for sharing on our Afterschool Link Party!

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    1. Thanks so much, Kim! I appreciate it! :)

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  19. What a great idea! I wish I knew this alligator activity when I taught preschool years ago. Now I have 5 grandkids and I can't wait to have fun with this the next time we're together. Diane

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    1. Thanks, Diane! I can't wait to have grandkids so I can start doing all the activities I miss from my teaching and homeschooling days! :)

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  20. Thank you so much! I was getting ready to make a center like this and when I went to Google images to find a good picture I found your site. You saved me HOURS of work!!
    I made the popsicle stick alligators too and added magnets on the back so I can use them on the board for a large group introduction. I'm excited about this center, so I'm sure my littles will be too! :)
    Karen

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    1. Thanks, Karen! I'm so glad I was able to help. I love your idea to add magnets to the back of the popsicle stick alligators, too! :)

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  21. Hello!
    Why do your cards look so much bigger?
    Jenny

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    1. Hi Jenny! I just found this. I'm assuming our printer settings must be different. I think my printer is just set to print out a full page for each full page of the printable. Good luck! :)

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