Time as a Measure: Elementary Students Positioning the Hands of an Analog Clock

Darrell Earnest, Alicia C. Gonzales, Anna M. Plant

Abstract


Elementary students have difficulty with the topic of time. The present study investigated students’ actions to position hour and minute hands on an analog clock to indicate particular times of the day. Using one-on-one interviews with students in Grades 2 and 4 (n = 48), we analyzed whether students were more accurate for one hand indicator (hour or minute) versus the other as well as their solution approaches as they positioned each hand. We first present a quantitative analysis of student performance to document whether hour and minute hands posed differential challenges for students as they positioned hands to indicate particular times. Results indicate the hour hand is significantly more challenging to position accurately than the minute hand. Students’ solutions reflected varied approaches, including consideration of the quantitative hour-minute multiplicative relationship, attention to part-whole relations, and matching numbers from the provided time to numerals on the clock. We discuss implications for theory and instruction, including the relationship of time to length measure learning trajectories and the current treatment of time in K-12 mathematics standards for the United States.

Keywords


clock; elementary math; measure; quantitative reasoning; time

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Copyright (c) 2018 Earnest; Gonzales; Plant