## Taking Time to Understand Time

For years, teachers have observed students’ frustration as they grappled with learning to read an analog clock (as opposed to a digital clock). I remember being frustrated myself and not fully understanding why learning to tell time was so difficult for my students and wondering how to help.

I began to realize that there are two aspects of time that have to be distinguished in teaching time: firstly, one must try to develop a concept of time in a child, and secondly, one must teach the child to “tell the time” (teaching clock time).

Teachers of young children generally concur that their students learn mathematical concepts best when they construct understanding through concrete experiences. When we remember that time can be neither seen nor touched but experienced and measured only indirectly with such tools as clock, we can begin to understand why time-related concepts are difficult for our students to learn.

From the body of research available, as well as from our own firsthand teaching experiences, we know that everything to do with understanding and using time concepts develops rather late. I will go so far as to say that most children do not really fully understand the intricacies of telling time until about the third or fourth grade.

What usually happens in the classroom is that developing the concepts of time is skipped. In keeping with the admonition that children must actively develop concepts of time, I have included a few of the math activities I began to use in my classroom:

**Time Intervals**

Just How Long Is a Minute?

Have your students close their eyes and you time one minute. Have them keep their eyes closed and put up their hand when they think one minute has passed. Call time at the end of the minute. Now try it again. The more you do it, the better sense of a minute they will have.

Also try some of the following activities:

How many times in one minute do you think (make an estimate) you can:

1. Sing “Happy Birthday”? Estimate ____ Actual _____

2. Touch your toes? Estimate ______ Actual ______

3. Hop on one foot? Estimate ______ Actual ___

4. Do jumping jacks? Estimate ______ Actual ______

5. Write your first name? Estimate ______ Actual ______

6. Run around the basketball court? Estimate ______ Actual ______

7. Draw stars? Estimate ______ Actual _______

8. Recite the alphabet? Estimate ______ Actual _______

9. Snap your fingers? Estimate ______ Actual _______

10. How high do you think you can count in one minute?

Estimate _______ How high did you go? ________

More or Less Than a Minute? **Homework**

Here are some things you do everyday. For each one, guess whether you think it will take more than one minute or less than a minute to do it. Now try each thing while someone keeps time.

1. Put on your socks and shoes.

Guess ______________ It really took _____________

more or less than 1 minute / more or less than 1 minute

2. Brush your teeth.

Guess ______________ It really took _____________

more or less than 1 minute / more or less than 1 minute

3. Eat a banana.

Guess ______________ It really took _____________

more or less than 1 minute / more or less than 1 minute

4. Read a page from your favorite story.

Guess ______________ It really took _____________

more or less than 1 minute / more or less than 1 minute

5. Pledge Allegiance to the Flag.

Guess ______________ It really took _____________

more or less than 1 minute / more or less than 1 minute

Now make up a short list of things you think will take about one minute, and give them a try.

There are some great games which help children understand time!