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When comparing negative numbers or a negative number and a positive number, the word "smaller" is confusing because it is unclear whether you mean that the number is less than another number or that the absolute value of the number is less than the absolute value of another number. You should use the phrase "less than" instead. A number's absolute value is how far it is from zero; for negative numbers think of it as the number without the negative sign. Negative eleven is less than negative three because negative eleven is farther left on the number line, but the absolute value of negative three, which is shown as |-3|, is less than the absolute value of negative eleven because negative three is closer to zero.

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Q: What is a smaller negative?

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