## Greater Than Less Than Game

Have you played the “Greater Than Less Than Game“? Most people have played some version of the game, but probably don’t recall what the game was called. This game has a myriad of different names, but the one I like best is The Geetee Eltee Game. It is a basic game with huge potential for the classroom and home learning environments. While you can invest some cash and purchase specialist flashcards to play the game, all you really need is a deck of playing cards. While the directions below are written for a classroom environment, they can easily be adapted for homeschooling odd or even-sized groups of students. Yes, this game even works if you are homeschooling a single child. All you need is a student, a willing Dad or Mom, and a deck of cards.

What is the purpose of The Geetee Eltee Game?

The Greater Than Less Than Game familiarizes students (K-1) with number ranking and the concepts of “greater than” and “less than“. The non-threatening environment of the game encourages children to rehearse the skill of number evaluation and comparison for extended periods of time, often far in excess of what they would commit to when completing worksheets or similar activities. Often avoidance of the extended practice of basic mathematical skills is what keeps students from developing competence in those skills. By cloaking the skill development in a game, most students have fun and are totally oblivious to the fact that they are doing basic mathematics.

What will I need to play the game?

One deck of playing cards per two students in the class.

How do we play the game?

1.  Remove the jokers, aces, jacks, queens, and kings from the pack. Number values can be allocated to these cards and they can be reintroduced at a later stage, but it is best that the students become comfortable with the game before adding this extra level of complexity.

2.  Have everyone in the class pair up. (Where necessary, use a group of three so everyone participates.)

3.  Allocate a pack of cards to each pair of students, and divide the pack equally between the two students. The task of shuffling and dividing the pack in half can be given to each group, if time allows. Students must keep their half-pack of cards face downwards. No peeping at the cards before or during the game.

4.  The students take turns to count to three. At the count of 3, each student flips their top card to reveal its number. The student with the highest value takes both cards and puts them at the bottom of their pack. What happens if both students reveal cards with the same number? In the case of a tie, each student returns their card to the bottom of their pack and the game continues.

5.  The game ends when one of the two students has taken all the cards. If you see that you will run out of class time before the majority of students have finished the game, stop everyone 5 minutes before the end of the class. Have each student count their cards. The student with the most cards in each group is the winner.

Warning: Be prepared for a little noise. Students may forget that they are “learning” and become quite excited while playing.

## Solving Linear Equations is the Game to Play

Bad experiences with linear equations can brand algebra as the subject to hate. Many a middle-schooler has adopted this negative attitude during the early stages of exposure to algebra. As countless high school mathematics teachers will attest, changing this perception of algebra as being a “boring and difficult” subject is not easy. But solving linear equations need not be the doorway to mathematical doom and darkness. Repetition is certainly necessary to develop problem-solving skill, but the unexciting repetition that usually kills any interest in algebra can be presented as something fun and challenging. How this goal is achieved is limited only by the imagination of the teacher. A favorite for me is to present the activity of solving linear equations as a jigsaw puzzle. The puzzle may be offered as an individual or a team challenge, depending on the objectives of the teacher.

Linear equation jigsaw puzzles are the game-players’ alternative to solving pages of equations. These puzzles take advantage of all the skill-developing attributes of puzzle building, but do this on top of developing algebraic problem-solving skills. Before the second piece of the puzzle can be laid, a linear equation must be solved. While some students may be hesitant to embrace the challenge of a page of linear equations begging solutions, few will back down from the chance to build a puzzle.

The rate at which the puzzle can be built is primarily determined by the speed at which the student can solve the linear equations. The linear equation jigsaw puzzle therefore has the potential to serve as an informal speed test, but teachers should be cautioned against using these puzzles for formal tests. Since jigsaw puzzle building depends on the hand-eye co-ordination and the spatial perception of the students, timed test results may be indicative of more than just the student’s ability to solve linear equations.