Teaching a Teenager to Tell the Time

interactive clock game

It may surprise you to learn that some teenagers can’t tell the time. Intelligent ones, even. I have seen this happen particulary when a student is showing symptoms of Dyscalculia…

Why can’t she tell the time?

It’s a complex skill, and depends on an appreciation of numbers from one to sixty, the five times table, and halves and quarters. Plus of course a sense of whether we are in the “to” zone (leading up to the next hour) or the “past” zone (just past the previous hour) which is essentially a matter of left and right. And leads to 8:40 being called “twenty to nine”. Plus of course the ability to quickly add or subtract 12 is essential to converting from the 24 hour clock to am and pm. The ability to swiftly move from one numerical naming scheme to another is crucial.

If any of those underlying skills aren’t strong enough then telling the time is going to be a real struggle.

She may hold tight to digital clocks and only want to work with either the 24 hour clock or only work with AM and PM type times.

What can a tutor or parent do?

  • Understand that this skill IS difficult. Never belittle the student. I have yet to encouter ANY teenager who likes having weaknesses in their raft of mathematical skills
  • Find out what they CAN do. Read a digital clock? Say what time things normally happen?

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