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Math Centers when Teaching Number Comparison: Two Ideas

By Tracey Bleakley

Learning to compare numbers is an important math skill for students in the primary grades. Use these two math centers for practice, and review when you are teaching comparing numbers to young children.

Math centers are an excellent way for children to practice what they are learning in math. These ideas can be used for extra practice when you are teaching number comparison to primary students, or you can add them to centers anytime after you have taught the skill as a review. Each of these centers can be easily modified for students of different levels by changing the range of numbers that you use.

Heads or Tails



Small paper cups

Recording Sheet



This is an easy activity in math centers for teaching comparing numbers, that can be played alone or with a partner. Provide students with a small paper cup filled with a set number of pennies. To do the center, the children turn the cup over, spilling the pennies onto the table or floor. They count the number of heads and the number of tails, and record each number on the recording sheet. They then determine which number is bigger, and use the comparison signs to show whether there are more heads or tails. Then, they put the pennies back in the cup and repeat the steps.


  • If you are not yet using the comparison signs, you can have the children circle the larger number.
  • Use fewer pennies, to make the center easier, and more pennies to make it more challenging.
  • Instead of pennies, you can use any two-sided counters. You can make your own, by spray painting one side of a bag of large lima beans, and leaving the other side white. Near Halloween, make two-sided counters by painting pumpkin seeds orange on one side, and white or black on the other.

Which Has More?


20 Plastic Easter eggs or baby food jars with lids

Small counters such as beans or popcorn kernels



Number charts or number lines (1 to 20)


Use this center with children who are just learning to compare numbers and need very concrete experiences with the skill in order to master it. To prepare the center, write the numbers from 1 to 20 on each of the eggs, or baby food jar lids. Then fill the containers with the appropriate number of counters. Place the filled containers in a small basket.

To play, the children choose two eggs from the basket. They then empty the beans from one of the eggs, count them, and place them in a line on the table. They do the same with the other egg. Show them how to line up the counters so that they start at the same spot, and are lined up directly across from the counters, from the first egg or jar. You may want to provide a two column grid to help them. When they are finished, they can see which number is greater. Provide a 1 - 20 number chart or number line, so that they can double-check their work. They then put the correct number of counters back into the containers, and choose two more.


  • Let students who have trouble keeping track of their counters, place each counter directly on the boxes of the number chart.
  • Only use the numbers from 1 to 10 with students who are still struggling.
  • For students who need more of a challenge, provide a separate basket with higher numbers in it.

These math centers for comparing numbers will provide lots of hands-on practice for primary students ,when you are teaching them to compare numbers.