Telling time on an analog clock should we ditch this skill?

Jul 7, 2022 | Red Deer


In this modern time where everything is digital, analog/round clocks are considered ancient and outdated – so why bother teaching kids to tell time using it?

There are some benefits of learning to read an analog clock – and it is not just so that a kid can tell time, but to learn math concepts and also to apply math concepts.  

Here are some math skills that they can learn from reading an analog clock:

  1. Counting by 5s, 10s, 15s, 30s and 60s is greatly facilitated by being able to see the numbers on a round clock - and skip counting is the basis of multiplication
  2. Understanding basic fractions, i.e. the concept of halves and quarters
  3. “Seeing” and learning elapsed time is easier on a round clock
  4. Factoring: 12s and 60s are the numbers that “build” time – and kids can learn factors of 12 are 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 12 and factors of 60 are 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 20, 30, 60
  5. Understanding equivalency: 10:45 is the same as 15 to 11 or a quarter to 11
  6. Knowing what it means by “clockwise” and “counter-clockwise”; many adults take this skill for granted but it's actually a learned skill
  7. Knowing basic geometry skills: learning how to calculate the degrees of the two angles created by the hour and minute hands, such as 90° at 3:00 and 9:00, 120° at 4:00.

Reading analog clocks is an important life skill, even in the future. You use it or you lose it. Just like doing simple addition, subtraction, multiplication and division – if you rely on calculator all the time you will lose your skill.


Telling time skills “checklist”

Teaching kids to tell time using analog clocks should start early.

  1. Grade 1: reading analog clocks – telling time by the hour: 3 o’clock, 10 o’clock
  2. Grade 2: reading analog clocks – telling time to the half-hour and quarter hour
  3. Grade 3: reading analog clocks – telling time when the minute hand on or between the numbers – such as 11:40, 11:43
  4. Grade 4: elapsed time – if the current time is 7:15 pm, how long will it be until 11:40 pm? What time will it be 1 hour and 50 minutes after 2:20 pm?

Eventually, students need to learn to deal with both systems: analog and digital clock. Make sure your child gets lots of practice in telling time especially in dealing with analog clocks.

Some schools in the U.K. have chosen to get rid of analog clocks, but not schools in the U.S. and Canada. Telling time using analog clocks involves complex mathematical manipulations – unlearning this skill would mean a missed opportunity for students to learn important life skills and real-world context.

Digital timepieces definitely have their place, after students have learned all of the benefits that can be derived from learning the ins and outs of reading an analog clock.

If your child doesn’t know how to tell time on an analog clock yet, maybe it’d be an interesting & fun activity to let them play with it and learn the skill during this summer 😊



Mathnasium of Red Deer is your neighbourhood’s math-only learning centre, and we are here to help your child. Our centre director, Riwan, and the whole team, would be happy to meet you! We are conveniently located in the shopping destination area in Red Deer: 5250 22nd St, Unit 30 B – at the Gaetz Avenue Crossing shopping centre, in the same area as Chapters Indigo/Starbucks, Michael Arts, Petland and Ashley, and the phone number is 403-872 MATH (6284). 

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