What’s The Time?

Can your students tell the time?

Telling the time can be pretty tough for children in early years but what about older children?

Telling the time is a scale-reading task and the dial of an analogue clock is a linear scale wrapped round into a circle.

As Hopkins, Pope and Pepperell (2004) say, “the complexity of the scale used on the analogue clock is not always recognised.”

Your aren’t kidding?!

Alarmingly it has been reported that schools are now removing analogue clocks from their exam halls because students cannot read them.

Pupils sitting their GCSEs and A-levels had complained that they couldn’t tell the time on an analogue clock because they were so used to digital displays. As for Roman numerals – forget it!

But why?

Time is taught in primary schools (the Maths National Curriculum states that children aged between five and six should be taught to tell the time to the hour, half past the hour, and be able to draw the hands on a clock) and analogue clocks are everywhere so how can we have students in Year 9, 10 and 11 unable to look at an analogue clock and say what time it is?

Tory MP Rob Halfon who chairs the Commons Education Committee, said

This should be an alarm call. All children should learn to tell the time traditionally.

Malcom Trobe, deputy general secretary at the Association of School and College Leaders, told the Daily Telegraph that students are used to seeing digital representations of time on their digital devices.

Okay we live in a digital age but telling the time on an analogue clock should be as basic as riding a bike or tying your shoelaces.

None of this should surprise us though. 16 years ago there was a similar outrage that young children couldn’t read analogue times.

Is the analogue clock out of time? I hope not. It creates a spatial plan of time in the mind and encourages a subjective experience of time – things that a digital clock just can’t do.

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