Lesson 3: Comparing Positive and Negative Numbers

Let’s compare numbers on the number line.

3.1: Which One Doesn’t Belong: Inequalities

Which inequality doesn’t belong?

$\frac{5}{4} < 2$

$8.5 > 0.95$

$8.5 < 7$

$10.00 < 100$

3.2: Comparing Temperatures

Here are the low temperatures, in degrees Celsius, for a week in Anchorage, Alaska.

day Mon Tues Weds Thurs Fri Sat Sun
temperature 5 -1 -5.5 -2 3 4 0
  1. Plot the temperatures on a number line. Which day of the week had the lowest low temperature?
  2. The lowest temperature ever recorded in the United States was -62 degrees Celsius, in Prospect Creek Camp, Alaska. The average temperature on Mars is about -55 degrees Celsius.

    1. Which is warmer, the coldest temperature recorded in the USA, or the average temperature on Mars? Explain how you know.
    2. Write an inequality to show your answer.
  3. On a winter day the low temperature in Anchorage, Alaska was -21 degrees Celsius and the low temperature in Minneapolis, Minnesota was -14 degrees Celsius.

    Jada said: “I know that 14 is less than 21, so -14 is also less than -21. This means that it was colder in Minneapolis than in Anchorage.”

    Do you agree? Explain your reasoning.

3.3: Rational Numbers on a Number Line

  1. Plot the numbers -2, 4, -7, and 10 on the number line. Label each point with its numeric value.
  1. Decide whether each inequality statement is true or false. Be prepared to explain your reasoning.

    $\text-2 < 4$

    $\text-2 < \text-7$

    $4 > \text-7$

    $\text-7 > 10$

Drag each point to its proper place on the number line. Use your observations to help answer the questions that follow.

GeoGebra Applet wh5qyme4

  1. Andre says that $\frac14$ is less than $\text{-}\frac {3}{4}$ because, of the two numbers, $\frac14$ is closer to 0. Do you agree? Explain your reasoning.

  2. Answer each question. Be prepared to explain how you know.
    1. Which number is greater: $\frac14$ or $\frac54$?

    2. Which number is farther from 0: $\frac14$ or $\frac54$?

    3. Which number is greater: $\text{-}\frac {3}{4}$ or $\frac58$?

    4. Which number is farther from 0: $\text{-}\frac {3}{4}$ or $\frac58$?

    5. Is the number that is farther from 0 always the greater number? Explain your reasoning.


We use the words greater than and less than to compare numbers on the number line. For example, the numbers -2.7, 0.8, and -1.3, are shown on the number line.

Three points plotted on a number line and the numbers negative 3 through 3 are indicated. The numbers are as follows: Point 1: negative 2 point 7.  Point 2: negative 3 and negative 2. Point 3: zero point 8

Because -2.7 is to the left of -1.3, we say that -2.7 is less than -1.3. We write: $$\text-2.7 <\text -1.3$$ In general, any number that is to the left of a number $n$ is less than $n$.

We can see that -1.3 is greater than -2.7 because -1.3 is to the right of -2.7. We write $$\text-1.3 >\text -2.7$$ In general, any number that is to the right of a number $n$ is greater than $n$

We can also see that $0.8 > \text-1.3$ and $0.8 > \text-2.7$. In general, any positive number is greater than any negative number.

Practice Problems ▶




The sign of a nonzero number is either positive or negative.