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Clock: 8 Simple steps to telling time on an analogue timepiece

Telling time on an analogue clock can be challenging for many people since digital timepieces have grown so popular. The flat display of 60 strokes, 12 numbers, and 3 sticks that move mechanically all day can be somewhat baffling to some viewers.

A lot of children, teens and adults see it easier to tell the time using the digital clock on a phone, watch, microwave, radio, television, tablet or computer. So, why bother to learn to tell the time on an analogue clock? Well, there are several benefits of using an analogue clock.

Benefits of learning an analogue clock

An analogue clock

  • helps children to understand subtraction as the difference between two numbers
  • gives a person practise with multiple names for the same quantity e.g. 2:40 is the same as 20 to 3:00
  • allows you to multiply using skip counting and saying the 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 12 times tables
  • makes you learn clock arithmetic
  • helps you understand modular arithmetic
  • shows clearly time lapsed (how long was Mummy gone?) and time anticipated (how much longer until the exam is over?)
  • teaches the concept of fractions e.g. quarter and half

Learn to tell time on an analogue clock with these 8 simple steps.

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

8 Steps to telling time on an analogue clock

1. Counting

Counting is a very important aspect of telling time on an analogue clock. There are 60 strokes on a clock. The big numbers on the clock are 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.

You can count forward and backward to help you to understand time anticipated and time lapsed when reading an analogue clock. Use these counting worksheets to teach children to count numbers.

2. Five times tables

The 5 times tables or counting in fives is known to have a catchy ring to it. Clap your hands or tap your feet and chant 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60. Why is this important? Remember that a clock has 60 strokes and big numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12?

Well, each big number represents 5 seconds. When you count the first 5 strokes, it is labelled number 1. When you count the next 5 strokes which reaches 10, it is labelled number 2. When you count the next 5 strokes which reaches 15, it is labelled number 15, and so on. Use this poster and worksheet to teach children 5 times tables.

3. Seconds, minutes, hours

Learn the meaning of seconds, minutes and hours to tell time on an analogue clock. There are:

  • 60 seconds in 1 minute
  • 60 minutes in 1 hour
  • 24 hours in 1 day

On a clock, each stroke represents 1 second. There are 60 strokes around the clock which represent 60 seconds. After you count all 60 seconds, it is the same as saying 1 minute.

When you count 1 minute 60 times, it is the same as saying 1 hour. The numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 each represents an hour.

4. Circle

The shape of an analogue clock is circle. Even if the outer frame is a square, triangle or rectangle, the face of the clock inside the frame is still a circle. The 60 strokes make a complete circle with the number 12 at the top, 6 at the bottom, 9 at the left, 3 at the right, and all the other numbers in between.

This circle shape allows you to clearly see how the time circles appropriately in two rounds of 12 hours each in a day. Use these worksheets to have fun with circles.

5. O’clock, quarter and half

Learning about o’clock is pretty straightforward. Each of the 12 big numbers represents o’clock after counting 60 minutes. Number 1 is 1 o’clock just like 1:00 on a digital clock; 2 is 2 o’clock or 2:00, 3 is 3 o’clock and so on.

To understand quarter and half, you must learn fractions. Draw a circle. At the centre from top to bottom, draw a vertical line. Numbers 12 at top and 6 at bottom mark half of the circle. At the centre from left to right, cross this line with a horizontal line. Number 3 at left and 9 at right mark quarter.

6. Face and hands

So far, the strokes and numbers are all displayed on the face of a clock, and the hands are the sticks that rotate from the centre point. There are 3 hands on a clock:

  • Second hand is the fastest
  • Minute hand is the longest
  • Hour hand is the shortest

When the second hand ticks around the clock 60 times, the minute hand moves once onto the next stroke. When the minute hand moves around the clock 60 times and hits the number 12, the hour hand moves to the next big number. This means that when the short hand is on 1 and the long hand is on 12, it’s 1 o’clock or 1:00.


7. Minutes past and to the hour

Remember the line that was drawn vertically down the centre of the circle? Well, the right side of that line is called ‘past’ and the left side is called ‘to’.

This means that when the minute hand aka the long hand is on the right side of that line, you say that the time is minutes past the hour e.g. 5:20 is the same as saying 20 minutes past 5 o’clock.

When the minute hand is on the left side of that line, you say that the time is minutes to the next hour e.g. 5:40 is the same as saying 20 minutes to 6 o’clock.

8. AM and PM

While a digital clock tells you whether it is 8 o’clock in the morning (AM) or 8 o’clock in the night (PM), an analogue does not. You still need to look outside to see what time of the day is it.

AM starts at 12 o’clock in the morning when it is dark and ends at 11.59 in the morning, which is one second before noon or lunch time. PM starts at 12 o’clock noon and ends at 11.59 in the night.

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