How to Compare 3-Digit Numbers

comparing 3-digit number blog post with child counting

In this blog post, you will find a variety of teaching tips to help your students learn more about comparing 3-digit numbers. These tips will help students use <, >, and = symbols as well as place value strategies when comparing. You will find anchor charts, hands-on activities, technology suggestions, and assessments to help you teach this standard effectively. Best of all, your students will have fun learning.

2nd Grade Standard:

2.NBT.4: Compare two three-digit numbers based on meanings of the hundreds, tens, and ones digits, using >, =, and < symbols to record the results of comparisons.

Create Anchor Charts

Comparing numbers anchor chart

When teaching comparing 3-digit numbers, it is important to discuss the comparison symbols first. Students need many opportunities to see these symbols. Anchor charts offer a great visual and are perfect for student reference throughout the unit. The second anchor chart offers a step-by-step process for comparing 3-digit numbers using place value. This unit builds on previous place value knowledge, so these anchor charts are also good for review.

How to Relate Comparing to Place Value

Comparing numbers activities

When teaching students about comparing 3-digit numbers, it is important to relate this to place value. Teaching students to start at the hundreds place when comparing is essential. This will help them quickly decide if they can find the answer or if they need to move on to the tens place and ones place. The activity shown above allows students to practice using place value and comparison symbols.

Make it Concrete

Comparing numbers activities

Hands-on activities make comparing numbers more concrete for students. These comparing 3-digit number games and activities allow students to not only think critically about the numbers they are comparing, but also about the symbols and comparison words. These activities can be used in small groups, during partner time, or individually.

Comparing numbers activities

This activity is another hands-on way for students to practice comparing 3-digit numbers. This activity builds on the previous one shown by taking away the comparison words. Students will now be using their knowledge of the symbols and place value to compare. By allowing students to practice in multiple ways, they will develop a deeper understanding of the concept.

Differentiate Skills for Students

Differentiating comparison activities

In the comparing numbers resource shown throughout the blog post, there are many options for differentiating activities. There are activities for comparing 3-digit numbers for 3 different levels: remedial, on-level, and advanced. Use these differentiated resources during your math group time to give your students the support they need. As they progress, they will be able to move on to the next level’s activities. Differentiation is very important for students during math because their learning skills will be varied. The way that they learn will also need to be varied.

Allow Lots of Ways to Practice

Comparing numbers activities

As I mentioned, allowing students to practice this skill in multiple ways creates a deeper understanding of the concept. These activities encourage students to make the number sentence true, which in turn, makes them use their brain in a different way. The spinner activity is always a hit as it makes math fun for the students. Not only are students practicing comparing during this activity, but they are also applying their place value skills.

BrainPop Jr. comparing numbers game

(Link: BrainPop Jr. Game)

Another fun way to practice comparing numbers is with technology. This BrainPop Jr. math game is an interactive activity that students will love. Incorporating technology adds another opportunity for students to learn and is great for those visual and auditory learners.

Comparing numbers assessments

Lastly, it is important that you assess your students’ knowledge of this skill. This unit provides different assessments to help you see where your students are struggling and where they are excelling. This will drive your instruction. Subsequently, it will help you as the teacher structure your small groups. These assessments can be given as a quiz, a bell ringer, or an exit slip.

Resources You May Like

Comparing numbers unit for 2.NBT.4 standard


I have created a few Place Value activities in ready-made Google Slides. These are for second grade.

Thank you so much for reading these math tips. If you’d like more blog posts about math skills, check these out.


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