Spanish Lesson: Comparisons of Inequality

By Eric W. Vogt

The grammatical and lexical tools of this lesson will enable students of Spanish to verbalize their observations about the world in ways that parallel what the mathematical symbols of > and < do for the world of numbers.

More Than or Less Than -- The Essence of Comparisons of Equality

Whether or not you have taught, or learned the comparison of equality already, begin this Spanish lesson on comparisons of inequality by reminding students that we can compare things with regard to qualities or quantities which they have in equal degree (and give a couple of examples, in English), as well as how they possess them in unequal degree.

Next, write the following sentences on the board, in English:

1. John is tall. Steve is as tall as John.

2. Robert is taller than John.

3. Tom is less tall than John.

Next, in a different space on the board, draw four stick figures, two of equal height but two that are different and ask them to name them. John and Steve will be the two equal ones. Robert will be the tallest and Tom will be the shortest.

Ask them to translate sentence number one -- and the second part of it as well, if they have studied comparisons of equality.

Next, write the initials J and R (standing for John and Robert) with a space between them and then R and J, with a space between them. Do the same with John and Steve and Steve and John (J... S and S... J). Next, invite a strong math student to come to the board and use mathematical symbols between the vowels to show their relationships with regard to height. Answers: J and R > J. For Tom and John: T and J > T. And of course for John and Steve: J = S and S = J. If the class has learned the comparisons of equality, have them express this last one: Juan es tan alto como Esteban, or vice versa. Either re-writing these mathematical representations or writing below them, supply the verbiage to express them -- essentially translating the sentences written earlier in English. You may also opt to write them next to the English. 1. John is tall. Steve is as tall as John. --- Juan es alto. Esteban es tan alto como Juan. 2. Robert is taller than John. --- Roberto es más alto que Juan. 3. Tom is less tall than John. --- Tomás es menos alto que Juan. Finally, point out the formulaic nature of #2 and #3 and tell them that this is the essence of what comparisons of inequality are about. There are many other aspects to, or permutations of, this formula requiring more complex statements. If they understand this structure, the finer points will come more easily.