EL Support Lesson

Which Number is the Greatest?

Use this lesson to support students in understanding the symbols used to record numbers. This lesson can be used alongside Comparing Three-Digit Numbers or as a standalone, scaffolded EL support lesson.
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Comparing Three-Digit Numbers lesson plan.
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This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Comparing Three-Digit Numbers lesson plan.

Students will be able to compare two three-digit numbers based on meanings of hundreds, tens, and ones, using symbols.


Students will be able to explain why a three-digit number is greater than another three-digit number with academic vocabulary using sentence frames.

(5 minutes)
  • Gather students together in a comfortable area.
  • Write down the following story problem on the whiteboard:
    • Zany the Zebra was very hungry. Zany the Zebra walked for awhile and found a pile of 100 pounds of grass by her favorite watering hole. She walked a little further and found a pile of 150 pounds of grass by a big tree. Zany the Zebra wants to eat the pile of grass with the greatest amount. Which pile of grass should Zany the Zebra eat? Why?
  • Read the story problem out loud and ask students to reflect on what the problem is asking. Allow students to come up to circle the two important numbers in the story problem. Clarify the meaning of any unknown/difficult words in the story problem by showing students visuals online (e.g. pounds, zebra, watering hole, etc.)
  • Have students think-pair-share with a partner which pile of grass Zany the Zebra should eat. Provide students with sentence frames to support their discussion (e.g. "I think Zany should eat ____ because ____").
  • Allow a few students to share out their ideas with the rest of the class. Do not tell students what the correct answer is. Remind students to justify their thinking using the sentence frame.
(5 minutes)
  • Create a place value chart on the whiteboard with three columns labeled left to right with H, T, O. Record 100 and 150 on the place value chart, making sure the numbers in the corresponding place values are aligned.
  • Compare the two numbers, starting in the hundreds place. Say, "I see that 100 has one hundred and so does 150. Let's move on to the next place value. I see 100 has zero tens, whereas 150 has five tens. This means 150 is greater than 100." Get out base-ten blocks to represent the two numbers, or sketch a picture of base-ten blocks next to the place value chart on the whiteboard. Explain to the students that Zany the Zebra would want to eat the pile of grass that is 150 pounds. Elaborate that 150 pounds is greater than 100 pounds. That is a lot of grass!
  • Record 150 > 110 on the whiteboard. Point to the number 150 and read from left to right, saying, "150 is greater than 110. This symbol is a greater than symbol. I think about it like an alligator's mouth. The alligator eats the bigger number!"
  • Explain to the students that today they will be comparing two three-digit numbers and figuring out which one is greater than the other, using base-ten blocks/sketches and place value mats.
(10 minutes)
  • Tell the students that you want them to learn important words that will help them discuss which three-digit number is greater than the other.
  • Put students into five small groups and pass out one of the vocabulary cards from the Vocabulary Cards worksheet and a posterboard to each group. Make sure each group has coloring materials.
  • Read through the vocabulary cards, referring to the visuals to support student understanding. Challenge each group to create a new visual that represents their vocabulary card and draw it on their posterboard. Model an example if necessary.
  • Give students sufficient time to complete their posterboards, rotating around the classroom to provide support and guidance.
  • Allow each group to share out their completed posterboard and encourage them to justify their reasoning for using the visual with a sentence frame (e.g. "We chose to draw ____ because ____"). Encourage peers to ask questions about their peers' drawings and use active questioning strategies to elicit deep thinking.
(10 minutes)
  • Put the students in partnerships and pass out the Comparing Three-Digit Numbers Check-in to each pair.
  • Provide students with access to whiteboards and whiteboard markers, place value mats, and base-ten blocks.
  • Read through the directions and clarify any confusion. Complete the first problem with student involvement, explicitly referring to the greater than (>), less than (<), and equal to (=) vocabulary cards to help you solve the problem.
  • Instruct the students to complete the next nine problems with their partners. Rotate around the room to check for understanding.
  • Provide sentence frames to support students in discussing their ideas, such as:
    • I think ____ is ____ (greater than, less than, equal to) ____ because ____.


  • Provide a word bank for students to refer to during the introduction activity with words/phrases (e.g. more food, greater amount, bigger amount, etc.)
  • Define the vocabulary words in English and student's home language (L1).
  • Allow students to work in a small group with students who speak the same L1, if possible.


  • Instruct students to explain the steps to figure out the number that is the greatest using sequencing words.
  • Challenge students to share their answer orally to the class without relying on the sentence frames for support.
(5 minutes)
  • Allow students to share out their answers and clarify any misconceptions.
  • Complete number 11 as a whole group, asking students to support you as you order the numbers from least to greatest.
  • Challenge students to complete number 12 with their partners.
  • Allow a partnership to come up to the whiteboard to explain their answer to the rest of the class.
(3 minutes)
  • Reinforce the importance of understanding how to compare numbers by providing a real-life example. For example, if you have $25, can you buy the $15 toy or the $30 toy?
  • Ask students to give a thumbs up if they understand how to compare the values of two three-digit numbers. Choose a few students to share out: "I understand/do not understand how to compare the values of two three-digit numbers because ____."

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