Grade 3
. What Is It? Current Page:Tips and Tricks When Students Ask Lesson Ideas
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Tips and Tricks

Representing Relationships as Expressions, Equations,
and Inequalities

  • Use cubes (all of equal weight) on a scale to develop the concept of inequalities. Children will then be able to see the representation of the inequality in two ways. First, children can count the number of cubes on each pan to determine which pan has a greater number of cubes. Second, the students will see that the lower pan contains more cubes since it weighs more.

  • Provide students with a couple of easy ways to remember which inequality symbol to use. One is to remind them to always have the narrow end of the inequality symbol point at the lesser number. For example, in 5 < 8, the narrow end of the symbol is directed at the lesser number. Another idea is to describe the inequality symbol as a mouth that always eats the greater number. The mouth is always open towards the greater expression, such as 14 > 2 + 7. Some teachers even draw teeth inside the symbol to dramatize the concept.

  • Construct a bulletin board displaying all of the equality and inequality symbols. Provide a written description and example for all symbols.

  • An inexpensive overhead manipulative for teaching equations and inequalities is the use of pennies. Make a transparency of the Equation/Inequality activity sheet. Place pennies in the boxes and an operation symbol between the boxes. Ask students which equality/inequality symbol is needed to make a true mathematical sentence. Look at the example below.


  • Number cards can be a wonderful tool when teaching equations. Have students help you prepare a set of 50 cards. Write a number from 0 - 9 on each card. Pass out 10 cards to each of 4 players. The first player lays down two cards and then declares addition or subtraction. The next player must lay down one or more cards that equal the expression. For example, if the first player lays down 6 and 8 and declares addition, the next player can lay down 9 and 5, because 9 + 5 = 14, or 3, 4, and 7, because 3 + 4 + 7 = 14. If a player cannot lay down any cards, the player must take a card from the deck and the next player takes a turn.

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