Basic Math Skills in Child Care: Greater Than, Less Than, and Equal To


One important part of teaching young children about math is helping them learn the concepts of “more than,” “less than,” and “equal to.” These concepts are key in beginning to understand addition and subtraction. With society increasing focus on the importance of reading, writing, and arithmetic, we are beginning to see more advertisements pushing for the use of flash cards, even beginning in infancy.  Although this is a popular trend, using flash cards to help young children memorize math and other facts is not appropriate because it doesn’t have any real meaning to a child. Young children get more out of counting in real life situations.  

Teaching “more than,” “less than,” and “equal to”

  • Child care providers know that children understand the concepts “greater than,” “less than,” and “equal to” when they give children crackers and Jimmy says that Danny has more crackers than he does. Taking away crackers from Danny and giving them to Jimmy may not be popular with Danny, but if he understands the concepts of more than, less than, and equal to or the same as, this solution will be accepted as fair. 
  • You can also use a number line to show these concepts and have children follow along. For example, you can have them put their finger on the number 3 and show them that if a number comes before 3, it is less than and if it comes after 3, it’s more than. You can also teach young children addition and subtraction this way.
  • As the example in the accompanying video shows, you can also teach children by giving them a number and asking them to show you “more than 4” or “equal to 2,” etc. Having children physically move small manipulatives or blocks can help solidify what they’re doing and make it more hands on and fun. 

Video Example of Teaching Math to Preschoolers

To see an example of teaching this math concept to preschool-age children, take a look at the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care video:

For More Information

To learn more about teaching math in child care, take a look at the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles: