Comparing numbers means deciding which of them is greater. Between any two numbers, we can put one of three symbols: ‘=’, ‘<’ or ‘>’. The symbol ‘<’ means the second number is greater. The symbol ‘>’ means the first is greater. (You can remember which way is which by noticing that the big end of the symbol always points toward the bigger number.) The symbol ‘=’ means the two numbers are the same. (In that case neither is greater than the other.)

You need to be careful when comparing signed numbers or fractions. Here are some things to keep in mind:

- Any positive number is greater than any negative number.
- Any positive number is greater than 0; any negative number is less than 0.
- The farther a negative number is from 0, the lesser
(
*not*greater) it is. For example, −3 > −5. - Be extra careful with fractions! For example, 1 ⁄ 3 > 1 ⁄ 5.