Learn Math Inequalities

The first step towards learning about math inequalities, is to first understand the word "inequality."

Inequality: A condition of being unequal.

This means that the sides are unbalanced - one is greater than the other.

An easy example of an inequality deals with money.

Think about yourself and your best friend - we are going to compare the amount of money that the two of you have. Imagine that you have $10 and your friend has $5. The two of you have an unequal amount of money.


Inequalities are NOT Equations

An equation is the opposite of an inequality. An equation is a condition of being equal. For example, you and your friend both have $10.


An equation uses an equal mark, because both sides are equal - they are balanced.

The equal mark looks like this: =

     An example of an equation is: $10 = $10

The Inequality Symbols

An inequality symbol kind of looks like an alligators mouth. You may have heard your teacher say "the alligator eats the bigger number." This is a helpful trick whenever you are trying to compare numbers as greater than, less than, or equal to.

Less Than Greater Than

One important skill for math inequalities is to be able to read them properly. Many students have a hard time remembering which way is greater than and which way is less than?!

*** Use this Trick ***

If the symbol looks like an L with the top smashed down , then that symbol is Less than. If it faces the opposite way than an L, then it is greater than.

Greater than OR Equal To & Less than OR Equal To


The nice thing about these symbols is that they face the same way as the other symbols. In other words, the "less than or equal to" symbol still opens the same way as the letter L. The only difference is that they have a line drawn under them. Take a look:

  • Less than or equal to:

  • Greater than or equal to:

The easiest way to remember the difference between "greater than" and "greater than or equal to" is to remember this simple phrase:

More is more!

  • "Greater than or equal to" has more words than "greater than"

  • has more than < - it has an extra line drawn in it!


A math inequality is a condition where something is unequal. If the symbol looks similar to the letter L, then it is Less than. Otherwise, it is greater than. If the symbol has a line under it, then add "or equal to" at the end of it.


If you need more information, please return to our pre algebra help page. You may also want to look at more advanced topics in inequalities in the free algebra help section. Otherwise, return from math inequalities to the Grade A homepage.



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