joe by joe October 22, 2013

Why Do Students Struggle With Telling Time?

We live in a digital age, where child are exposed to digital time on everything from microwaves to cell phones. The skill of telling time on an analog clock is receiving increasingly less value in this modern age. In fact, the Common Core State Standards only dedicates two of all mathematical standards to telling time- one in first grade and one in second grade. With a jam-packed schedule and list of critical standards for success, teaching the lessons of telling time is receiving less and less attention from elementary schools as well.

The inherent time-telling life skills that are expected of students are necessary to succeed and be independent in a culture immersed in time related activities. Those skills of making and keeping a schedule, knowing the days of the week, months of the year, reading a calendar, and estimated lengths of time fall to the wayside, as math curriculum focus solely on reading an analog clock. Although these skills are no longer written as standards for success, it does not mean they are not important for students to learn. Telling time in its entirety is a distinct and crucial life skill. Often times, students with special needs may reach high school without a firm grasp of how to tell time.

Why is it so difficult for kids to learn the concept of time? It’s a skill many adults take for granted, but when you are attempting to teach students time-telling, you may begin to realize that so much more goes into these lessons.  For example, students must master skip counting by 5s in order to properly read an analog clock. They must be familiar with a clock face, number orientation, the function of clock hands, and possess the ability to add and subtract hours and minutes.  Some daily functioning skills require that students must understand the order of events in a day; as well have the ability to estimate a reasonable length of time that a certain activity may require, and be familiar with calendar concepts.

Days & Weeks

Students with various learning disabilities, such as dyscalculia or a speech and language delay may struggle with time concepts. One of the identifiers for dyscalculia in teens and adults is difficulty adhering to/reading a schedule or approximating time ( Students with speech and language delays or auditory processing difficulties may struggle with hearing a time out loud and visualizing what that means on a clock.

As educators and parents of children with special education, we have anticipated and tried to meet the various needs of those who struggle with the concepts of telling time. We developed Todo Telling Time as an early intervention tool to address both the prerequisite skills needed for mastering time concepts, as well as aligning it to the Common Core State Standards.

Todo Telling Time can help to hone some of the crucial “pre-time-telling” skills. For example, the game Ferris Wheel introduces children to the number orientation around a clock face. It also guides students in practice counting by 5s and putting numbers in order- subtle, yet necessary skills for telling time.

Ferris Wheel

Another Todo Telling Time Game, Schedule gives students practice in setting an analog clock to a give time that corresponds with a scheduled event of the day. These events mimic an elementary student’s life, thus helping them relate time to their own day. Many learners struggle with scheduling, and knowing the appropriate time of the day for events.

Quiz Game

Elapsed time is another difficult skill for students to master. How many times have your students/children asked “How much longer?!?” Giving a quick answer: “In 20 minutes,” may not be suitable for students that have difficulty adding and subtracting time and visualizing elapsed time. We offer two games that address these difficulties- Schedule and Time Quiz. Both of these games break down the concept of elapsed time into manageable, learnable chunks.

Quiz Game 2

Telling time can be tricky business for struggling learners. Students with dyscalculia and other learning difficulties often have the greatest difficulty with concepts of time. Todo Telling Time offers children, teachers, and parents, a comprehensive app to address the many skills that lead to the mastery of telling time.

About Jessica

Jessica joined the special education movement six years ago as a Teach for America corps member. She has taught in three San Francisco Bay Area schools, focusing on students with speech and language delays. Jessica received her undergraduate degree from Translyvania University in Lexington, KY and her Masters of Education from Alliant International University. She is passionate about educating students in creative and meaningful ways and as a member of the LocoMotive Labs team, Jessica looks forward to creating new resources to complement our current and upcoming learning apps.