February 22, 2019
By April Brown

EL Support Lesson

Comparing Values

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This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Let’s Compare! Place Value Disks & Three-Digit NumbersLesson plan.
GradeSubjectView aligned standards
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Let’s Compare! Place Value Disks & Three-Digit NumbersLesson plan.

Students will be able to compare two three-digit numbers based on meanings of the hundreds, tens, and ones digits, using symbols to record the results.


Students will be able to compare the values of two three-digit numbers with academic vocabulary and more complex sentences using sentence frames and partnerships for support.

(4 minutes)
  • Gather the students together and write the numbers 6 and 134 on the whiteboard.
  • Provide each student with a personal whiteboard and whiteboard marker.
  • Ask students to write down the number that is Greater thanThe other number.
  • Give students a few moments and ask them to show you their whiteboards.
  • Encourage a few students to share out the strategy they used for figuring out which number was greater than the other number. Provide a sentence frame to support students in sharing their ideas (e.g. "I know ____Is greater than ____Because ____"). Elaborate that the number 6 only has one DigitWhile the number 134 has three digits. This means 6 is equal to 6 ones, whereas 134 is equal to 4 ones, 3 tens, and 1 hundred. 134 is greater than 6 because it has values in the tens and hundreds place.
  • Keep 134 on the whiteboard and erase the number 6. Replace it with the number 234.
  • Repeat the process above and instruct students to write down the number that is greater than the other number on their whiteboard.
  • Allow a few students to share out their ideas, encouraging them to refer to the sentence frame for support.
  • Explain to the students that comparing two numbers with the same number of digits can be tricky. Create a place value chart on the whiteboard by drawing three columns and writing H, T, O in each column from left to right. Record both three-digit numbers in the place value chart.
  • Show students how to compare each digit, starting in the ones place. Circle the digits that are the same (4 ones, 3 tens). Elaborate that these digits are worth the same values and sketch a picture of base-ten blocks to help students visualize (small squares for ones, long rectangles for tens, big squares for hundreds). When you get to the hundreds place, put a star next to the 2 because that number is greater than the 1. Say, "This number has 2 hundreds and this number only has 1 hundred. I know that 234 is greater than 134 because 2 hundreds is more than 1 hundred." Sketch the hundreds using base-ten blocks for students to see.
  • Tell the class today they will CompareAnd ContrastTwo strategies they can use to figure out which three-digit number is greater than, less than, or equal to another three-digit number.
(8 minutes)
  • Put students in partnerships and pass out the Vocabulary Cards. Read through the student-friendly definitions and refer to the corresponding visuals/symbols to support student understanding. Reinforce that the alligator on the greater than and less than symbols wants to "eat" the bigger/larger number. Provide a few examples for students to reference.
  • Write down the vocabulary words on the whiteboard (compare, contrast, digit, equal to, greater than, less than, and place value).
  • Choose a definition to read aloud to the class. Give students time in their partnerships to figure out what vocabulary word the definition connects to. Allow students to refer to their vocabulary cards for support.
  • Instruct students to raise their hands if they know the correct vocabulary word. Have students come up to the whiteboard to circle the matching vocabulary word. Clarify any misconceptions. Continue the process until you've read all of the definitions and students seem to understand their meaning.
  • Provide sentence frames to support students in sharing their answers with the rest of the class (e.g. "____Means ____. I know this because ____").
(10 minutes)
  • Write the following information on the whiteboard for students to refer to throughout guided practise: < greater than, = equal to, < less than. Draw teeth on the greater than and less than symbols to support student understanding.
  • Keep students in partnerships and pass out a Place Value Mat: Three-Digit Numbers, whiteboard, and two whiteboard markers to each pair.
  • Project the Less Than or Greater Than: 100 to 999 game on the whiteboard.
  • Begin the game and pause after the first pair of numbers is shown. Instruct students to record the numbers on their place value mat, keeping the place values aligned. Remind students to compare the numbers by looking at how many hundreds, tens, and ones they have. Next, instruct them to sketch base-ten block representations for each number on their whiteboards. Ask students to raise their hand when they have figured out which symbol to use.
  • Facilitate conversations by providing sentence frames, such as:
    • ____Is ____(greater than, less than, equal to) ____. I know this because ____.
  • Repeat the above process for two more problems in the game, pausing to allow students sufficient time to solve the problem and figure out the correct symbol.
  • Allow a few partnerships to share out their answers, clarifying any misconceptions.
(10 minutes)
  • Have students stand up and scramble around the room. Instruct them to get together with a new partner they haven't worked with.
  • Make sure each pair has a whiteboard, two whiteboard markers, and a place value mat.
  • Pass out the sets of strategy cards to each partnership, handing each partner one of the cards. Instruct students to leave the strategy card face down on their desk. Pass out the other set of notecards (with three pairs of three-digit numbers) to each partnership at this time, too. It's fine if students see these.
  • Instruct students to pick up their strategy card. Explain that the partner with the "base-ten sketches" notecard will figure out which number is greater than, less than, or equal to the other number using base-ten sketches. Explain to the students that the partner with the "place value mat" notecard will figure out which number is greater than, less than, or equal to the other number using only the place value mat. Reinforce that this means that they will compare the digits of each number to see which number has a greater value.
  • Explain that after both partners have a chance to figure out the answers using the strategy on their strategy card, they will compare their answers and reflect on the strategy (base-ten sketches or place value mat) they used to solve the problem.


  • Define the vocabulary words in English and student's home language (L1).
  • Allow students to work in a small group with students who speak the same L1, if possible.


  • Instruct students to explain the steps to figure out the number that has the greatest value using sequencing words.
  • Challenge students to share their answer orally with the class without relying on the sentence frames for support.
(5 minutes)
  • Encourage students to think about what is similar and what is different about their strategies for solving the problem (base-ten sketches as opposed to a place value mat). This can also be an initial discussion about what worked well in each strategy, and what might make each strategy more complete or easy to understand.
  • Provide sentence frames, such as:
    • I used ____To solve the problem, but my partner used ____Instead.
    • The strategy of ____Is easier to understand because ___.
    • ___Is a better strategy because ____.
  • Allow the students a few minutes to discuss the similarities and differences of their approaches.
(3 minutes)
  • Ask students, "Why is it important to be able to compare values of three-digit numbers?" Allow a few students to respond.
  • Explain to the students that one reason is because when people use money to purchase items, it's important that they compare the values of the item prices and how much money they have so they know if they can afford the item. For example, if you have $300 but a couch costs $320, can you afford to purchase the couch?

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