Learning to tell time – learning methodology and educational tools

OLO-fusion, learning to read the time to: improve the quality of life for families and facilitate the transfer of knowledge from education specialists.

Methodology for learning to tell time

Learning the time on an analog dial is considered one of the difficult subjects for primary 1 children to integrate. So difficult that in May 2018, England chose to remove analog clocks from colleges. Many students were simply unable to assess the time remaining in exams, which created anxiety for them and affected their performance. However, the United States has taken a stand on this, it has chosen to continue learning the analog clock in American schools. Like Canada, as well as many countries around the world, where the education system continues and will continue to teach this learning, which is part of the science of mathematics. In fact, learning to read the time reinforces the knowledge acquired in mathematics!

In mathematics you say? Yes quite! The analog clock makes it possible to integrate complex mathematical concepts and leads the young person to develop various problem solving strategies: addition, subtraction, fractions and leaps of 5, are examples. A clock is first and foremost numbers !! Two sets of numbers which overlap in rotation to form the passing of time. Each moment of the day has two precise parameters, the hour digit and the minute digit. Moreover, according to studies carried out by researchers 2 , a child who has difficulty mastering the learning of analog time at the start of his school career, will probably have difficulties in mathematics more late in school. It is therefore a performance indicator to monitor closely.

Here is a common situation from everyday life:

Children, we have to leave in 15 minutes to go to dinner. Tell me what time should we leave ? To solve this problem, the child must answer several questions adequately. First, it must be able to read the current time, 11:50 a.m. in our example. Since the hour hand is almost on the number 12, many children will answer that it is 12:50 and not 11:50. Some will also mix the 2 hands. Then, the young person must determine if the number 15 is added or subtracted. Then determine if the number 15 will be added to the hours or minutes. However, it’s so simple 15 minutes, you say!

Here, the analog clock model allows the youngster to see that at 11.59 a.m. the hands move to 12.00 p.m. The minute count drops back to 0. So one hour, or a full revolution of the clock, is equal to 60 minutes and not to 100, which the child can hardly anticipate simply using a digital dial.

Let’s take this exercise a step further! We could ask the young person to represent the fraction of 15 minutes in an hour, so in 60 minutes. The portion of 15 minutes in 60 represents a quarter, ¼. Then ask to count the number of 5 minute hops in 15 minutes. There are 3 hops of 5 minutes in 15 minutes.

Learning to tell time also uses memory concepts: the youngster must remember that there are 24 hours in a day, the hour hand therefore makes 2 full turns of the dial in a day. He should also remember that there are 60 minutes in an hour and 60 seconds in a full minute. All these details make learning the hour very complex, but essential!

Essential, knowing that to really integrate the concept of time 3 , the child must first be able to read the analog time, which offers a global perspective of time, also knowing that many parents do not have an analog clock at home, it can be considered that too often the teaching of the time relies entirely on the teachers.

Do we ask teachers for the impossible? Are the pedagogical tools for teachers outdated? Yes quite!

Over the past two years, OLO-fusion has participated in several exhibitor fairs, including the prestigious Salon de l’Apprentissage de Montréal https://www.salondelapprentissage.ca.

Testimonies were collected during these activities:

  • I teach the first year in elementary school and it is very difficult for me to explain the reading of the hour to children, because the 2 hands of the clock are black and they are almost the same length.
  • I teach third grade and many of the kids in my class still can’t tell the time on a wall clock.
  • I am an occupational therapist for children with learning disabilities and I have to develop all the tools on my own, because there are none on the market to adequately meet this need. Also, there are very few tools that allow you to learn the time while playing.
  • My daughter is 11 years old and she still cannot tell the time, should I worry?
  • I had trouble getting a children’s clock, which has the hours and minutes. Without the minute numbers, it’s impossible for me to explain this concept to my son.
  • I would like to start learning the time with my daughter, who is in kindergarten, but I don’t know how to show her the time.
  • My boy is in first year and the professor made him make a paper dial with the minutes. I could see that in his math workbook, there were no minutes around the edges of the clock faces used as an example. I do not understand why there are no minutes, it is just starting to learn to count and learn to identify the leaps of 5!

Educational tools to learn to tell time

The tools currently in use must be adapted to today’s reality, that teachers and parents are looking for efficiency in the material and methodology of school learning. This optimization will allow more young people to know how to read the time on an analog clock. This will provide access to a vast source of problem solving that they can easily put into practice in their daily lives.

The OLO-fusion educational tools are aimed at effective and fun learning!

This is why the learning method and tools of the OLO-fusion kit are so effective and allow children to answer this very simple question: it is 11h50, what time will it be in 15 minutes ?

  • The youngster looks at the wall clock and identifies the number of hours and that of minutes , which are very distinct because they are based on a color code.
  • It validates that the small red digit of the hours around the edge is the 11 or 12 .
  • Then he uses the learning dial and adjusts the removable hands to indicate the time in 15 minutes . If in doubt, the teacher can easily tell the learner whether to move the red needle or blue . The youngster then easily integrates the color code, he sees it and he touches it! He understands very concretely that by moving the blue needle des minutes in leaps of 5 , time will run out of 11 h 50 at 11 h 55 , then at 12 h 00 . À 12 h 00 span>, it will also have to move the red needle , because we will have passed the course of the time .
  • Finally move the blue needle again to reach 12 h 05 . This is how 15 minutes will have elapsed between 11 h 50 and 12 h 05 ! The child can then compare the learning dial and the wall clock, in order to integrate what concretely represent 15 minutes . Oops, it goes quickly 15 minutes when you’re having fun!

In addition, the learner can work within a defined framework using the time-learning methodology offered in the ClockTime+ kit. This methodology is based on the levels of knowledge acquisition of school learning. It is anchored in a fun story that will allow young and old alike to integrate the concepts of contemporary learning, step by step. In all, 5 separate sections have been written on 3 different levels:

1) hour; 2) half an hour; 3) the quarter hour; 4) the minute and 5) present the time using the terms minus / and.

Thus, learning time and time must be done in several stages, taking into account the child’s level of development. However, the child can be in contact with a clock from the age of 3-4 years 6 . According to the researchers, learning by the hour is acquired over several years and in several stages, thus leveraging the foundation of the cognitive learning method 7 . Finally, the process would be the same for all children, only the pace will differ.

With OLO-fusion, learning to read the time has never been easier! Good learning!


  1. Brett Molina, USA TODAY, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/05/04/analog-clocks-students-cant-read-schools-still-use/580935002/, May 4th 2018
  2. Elise Burny, Martin Valcke and Annemie Desoete, Ghent University, «Running head: IMPACT OF MATHEMATICS DIFFICULTIES ON CLOCK READING», <https://users.ugent.be/~mvalcke/CV/TIME_JLD_2011.pdf>, 2011
  3. Boulton-Lewis, G., Wilss, L. et Mutch, S. (1997). Analysis of Primary Children`s Abilities and Strategies for Reading and Recording Time From Analog and Digital Clocks. Mathematics Education and Research. Vol. 9, No. 2. 136-151
  4. Lucie Barriault, ‘Le rôle des histoires dans le développement de l’enfant http://rire.ctreq.qc.ca/2016/02/histoires-developpement-enfants/’, February 2nd 2016
  5. Lucie Barriault, ‘Le rôle des histoires dans le développement de l’enfant http://rire.ctreq.qc.ca/2016/02/histoires-developpement-enfants/’, February 2nd 2016
  6. Annie Harvey, Petit guide pour apprendre à lire l’heure, https://www.mamanpourlavie.com/enfant/3-a-5-ans/developpement/apprentissages/14625-petit-guide-pour-apprendre-lire-l-a-heure.thtml, May 14th 2018
  7. TELUQ, https://wiki.teluq.ca/wikitedia/index.php/L%27apprentissage_dans_l%27approche_cognitive, Last edit of this page on May 19th, 2019 at 8:42 AM.