Hungry Alligator
In this lesson, children will determine if a number is greater than, less than or equal to another.
Math Lesson for:
Toddlers/Preschoolers
(See Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.)
Content Area:
Algebra
Numbers and Operations
Learning Goals:
This lesson will help toddlers and preschoolers meet the following educational standards:
 Understand numbers, ways of representing numbers, relationships among numbers and number systems
 Understand patterns, relations and functions
 Represent and analyze mathematical situations and structures using algebraic symbols
 Use mathematical models to represent and understand quantitative relationships
Learning Targets:
After this lesson, toddlers and preschoolers should be more proficient at:
 Counting with understanding and recognizing “how many” in sets of objects
 Developing understanding of the relative position and magnitude of whole numbers and of ordinal and cardinal numbers and their connections
 Connecting number words and numerals to the quantities that they represent, using various models and representations
 Sorting, classifying and ordering objects by size, number and other properties
 Using concrete, pictorial and verbal representations to develop an understanding of invented and conventional symbolic notations
 Modeling situations that involve the addition and subtraction of whole numbers, using objects, pictures and symbols
Hungry Alligator
Lesson plan for toddlers/preschoolers
Step 1: Gather materials.
 Assemble several “alligator mouths.” You can be as creative as you like, using greenpainted popsicle sticks glued together on an angle and decorated with a googly eye and sharp teeth, for example. Or you can use two strips of paper joined together with a brass brad. The children really love the idea of an alligator eating “more” of something. Physically positioning the alligator’s mouth towards the larger quantity helps to solidify the concept.
 A deck of cards with face cards and Aces taken out of the deck.
 The book, Alfie the Alligator, by Sandy Turley
Note: Small parts pose a choking hazard and are not appropriate for children age five or under. Be sure to choose lesson materials that meet safety requirements.
Step 2: Introduce activity.
 Introduce the concepts of “more than,” “less than” and “equal to” by reading the book, Alfie the Alligator, a whimsical story rhyme about an alligator who takes his friends on a journey to find the largest numbers. The book teaches the concept of comparing numbers and reinforces the use of the greater than (>) less than (<) and equal (=).
Step 3: Engage children in lesson activities.
 Explain the game. Draw two cards from the pile and place them side by side with a space in between. Model the mathematical phrasing that will help the children understand the concept of “greater.”
 Say: “Let’s pretend these numbers are cookies. Would Alfie the Alligator rather have six cookies or three cookies?” The children respond: “He wants six cookies.” Say: “That’s right. Alfie is hungry and six cookies are more than three cookies. And three cookies are less than six cookies. So we will place Alfie’s open mouth towards the bigger number of cookies.”
 Have the children play through the deck of cards, alternating turns. As was modeled, have the children say a sentence about how it was done. For example, six cookies are more than three cookies.
 Be sure to model the correct vocabulary if two numbers are the same.
Additional Extensions
 Use items other than playing cards. For larger numbers, use counting manipulatives such as colored bears or dried kidney beans.
 Transfer to “More than, less than, equal to” worksheets where there are two numbers or two groups of objects and a box between the two numbers. In the box, have the children draw the “more than” sign to indicate which of the two numbers is larger. Worksheets can be downloaded at www.themeasuredmom.com/lessthangreaterthanmathactivityusingtoys/
Step 4: Teach math vocabulary.
 More than: Words used to compare quantity (e.g.,”Six cookies are more than three cookies.”)
 Greater than: More than; shows relationship between numbers (e.g.,”The number six is greater than the number three.”)
 Less than: A value that is smaller in number (e.g.,”The number three is less than the number six.”)
 Equal: To be the same in number or amount (e.g.,”There are equal amounts of cookies.”)
Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.
Adapt Lesson for Toddlers
Toddlers may:
 Have trouble identifying which number is greater
Home child care providers may:
 Model the mathematical phrasing that will help the children understand the concept of “greater.” Say: “Let’s pretend that these numbers are cookies. Would Alfie the Alligator prefer six cookies or three cookies?” The children respond: “He wants six cookies.” Say: “That’s right. Alfie is hungry. Six cookies are more than three cookies and three cookies are less than six cookies. So we will place Alfie’s open mouth towards the bigger number of cookies.”
 Get small objects, like dried beans, to help the children count out the quantities. If they are able to answer the problems correctly, the difficulty is with number sense; they need more practice matching written numbers and quantities so this connection becomes more secure.
Adapt Lesson for Preschoolers
Preschoolers may:
 Grasp the idea that the alligator’s open mouth goes toward the larger number
 Have a command of the numbers 2–9 (the numbers on the playing cards)
Home child care providers may:
 Transfer to “More than, less than, equal to” worksheets, where there are two numbers or two groups of objects and a box between the two numbers. Have the children draw the “more than” sign in the box to indicate which of the two numbers is larger. Worksheets can be downloaded at: www.mathaids.com/Greater_Than_Less_Than/Kindergarten_Integers.html.
 Use items other than playing cards. For larger numbers, use counting manipulatives such as colored bears or dried kidney beans.
Suggested Books
 Alfie the Alligator by Sandy Turley (Amherst, New Hampshire: Helps4Teachers, 2008)
 More or Less by Stuart J. Murphy (New York: HarperCollins, 2005)
Music and Movement
 Teaching Children Concepts of Less Than, Greater Than and Equivalent, Music With Mar www.songsforteaching.com/math/earlynumberscounting/comparingnumbersmoregreaterequivalentorless.htm

 Mr. Alligator Can Chomp: Learning the Concept of Greater Than/Less Than www.songsforteaching.com/jackhartmann/greaterthanlessthan.htm
Outdoor Connections
Play Red Rover. Separate everyone into two equal teams called Team A and Team B. Have each team stand in a straight line, holding hands. The two teams should be facing each other, about 10 yards apart. Team A decides who to “call over” from Team B. Once Team A has decided, they sing: “Red Rover, Red Rover, we call (name) over!” The player called from Team B must run to Team A and try to break through the arms of two Team A players. If the player from Team B does not pass through, that player is a part of Team A now. But if the player passes through, the player goes back to his/her original team, Team B. Continue playing until one team only has two players. Once one of those two players gets put on the other team, the game is over. The larger team wins.
Web Resources
 Greater than and less than with Mr. Alligator www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5bEcjYBepU&feature=related
 Compare the numbers presented and decide which symbol (greater than, less than, equal) completes the statement. www.abcya.com/comparing_number_values.htm
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