Monday, August 13, 2012

Preschool Math: Comparing Quantities with the Crocodile Game

Nearly every person I know was taught the 'greater than' and 'less than' symbols as crocodile mouths (the crocodile wants to eat the larger quantity).  Here's a fun game that I put together for my preschoolers (L and E just turned 3) to teach the concept of comparing quantities.  I put magnets on the backs of number tiles a couple weeks ago and we've using them for many fun math activities on our magnet board, but I always seem to forget to take pictures.  For this game, the magnetic backs are not really necessary, and you could even play with cards that have numbers on them (like Uno).  Here are the rules of this simple math game...

First place all the number tiles/cards face down.  During each turn each one of my girls turns one tile over to reveal a number.  Then each child must count out that number of plastic monkeys and place them on the floor:

I ask them which pile has more monkeys.  If the girls are not sure, we line them up to do the comparison:

Our crocodile puppets (plastic oven mitts I got for $1) will only consume the larger group of monkeys...

.. and back in the barrel they go.  The girls really enjoy this game because there is opportunity for hands-on learning by moving manipulatives, as well as a touch of drama when the crocodile eats the monkeys!

After we played quite a number of rounds of this game, I directed the kids' attentions to the magnetic whiteboard and asked them if they wanted to learn to draw a crocodile mouth (of course they did!).  They were not too successful copying my 'greater than'/'less than' signs freehand, so I made dots for them to connect.  Both girls enjoyed this activity, but E really excelled with how precise her lines were (unfortunately I didn't manage to capture a photo of her in action - L's lines were a little curvier).

To tie it in with our previous game, I pulled out two of the magnetic number tiles and asked the girls to place the larger number in front of the crocodile's mouth and the smaller number behind it.  Both L and E did a great job with this.

I made my 'greater than' sign into a crocodile, and L wanted to do the same:

I helped her with the body and gave her some verbal instructions (draw two eyes, four legs, etc..), and I think she did a wonderful job.

While I was helping L with her crocodile drawing, E went off to build a staircase out of unit blocks (my own version of the Montessori Pink Tower where you have to place blocks in order of size).  I was amazed at how my sweet E took this task out on her own initiative and worked on it independently until she had solved the problem (wish I had taken a picture..ugh).  I think E might have a better mastery of spatial math concepts than her sister does - it's pretty neat how each twin has her own strengths.  L is better at counting (forwards, backwards, in multiple languages, by 2s, by 10s), while E still skips the number 5 (she used to count correctly, I don't know where she suddenly picked up this weird habit), yet she can take on a Tangram-style puzzle (for adults) and work patiently until she solves it.  I'm constantly in awe of my children...

UPDATE: I was so inspired by how much my kids enjoyed early math "games" that I created the La La Logic Critical Thinking Curriculum for 3-6 year olds, which includes online brain challenge games, printable worksheets, enrichment activities and more!


  1. Fabulous! I wish I had been taught the crocodile mouth, way easier. My little guy isn't ready for this, yet, but I'll save it for later. Thanks for linking up with Tuesday Tots!

  2. These are great ideas for teaching quantity comparison. I've pinned this to the Tuesday Tots Pinterest board. Thanks for linking up!


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