## The alligator eats the bigger number is the common approach for student to use inequality symbols (< > < > ). I find that students remember the sentence but many do not retain the concept or use the symbols correctly, even in high school. This post presents an alternative approach.

### Alligator Method

The reason, I believe, is that we introduce additional extraneous information: the act of eating, the mouth which is supposed to translate into a symbol, the alligator itself. For a student with processing or working memory challenges this additional information can be counter productive.

### Dot Method

I use the dot method. By way of example here is the dot method. I show the symbols and highlight the end points to show one side has 2 dots and the other, 1.

Then I show 2 numbers such as 3 and 5 and ask “which is bigger?” In most cases the student indicates 5. I explain that because 5 is bigger it gets the 2 dots and then the 3 gets the 1 dot.

I then draw the lines to reveal the symbol. This method explicitly highlights the features of the symbol so the symbol can be more effectively interpreted.

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### Concept of Inequalities

That is the presentation of the symbol. To address the concept of more, especially for students more severely impacted by a disability, I use the following approach. I ask the parent for a favorite food item of the student, e.g. chicken nuggets. I then show two choices (pretend the nuggets look exactly the same) and prompt the student to make a selection. This brings in their intuitive understanding of more.

I think use the term “more than” by pointing to the plate with more and explain “this plate has * more *than this other plate.” I go on to use the quantities.

Finally, I introduce the symbol to represent this situation.

Below is the example my 3rd grade son used to explain less than to a classmate with autism. This method worked for the classmate!