Quarter, Half & Whole Turns in Math: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Mary Beth Burns

Mary Beth has taught 1st, 4th and 5th grade and has a specialist degree in Educational Leadership. She is currently an assistant principal.

Did you know that rotations, like the turning of a wheel, can be measured? Turns can be found both in math and in the world around us. In this lesson, learn how to identify and compare whole, half and quarter turns.

What's a Whole Turn?

Have you ever spun around in a tire swing? What about spinning around in an office chair? Every time you make one full rotation, you complete a whole turn. In math, you'll use different kinds of turns when you're looking at shapes. If a shape does a full rotation, or complete turn, you'll call it a whole turn.

Mathematicians measure turns in degrees. No, not like degrees in temperature. Degrees in math are units of measurement used to measure turns and angles. A whole turn is 360 degrees. Why is that, you ask? This is because there are 360 degrees in a circle. Since one whole turn is a full circle, it's 360 degrees. Two whole turns would be 720 degrees because 360 + 360 = 720.

Whole turns can be in two directions: clockwise and counterclockwise. Clockwise is the direction of the forward movement of the hands of a clock. Counterclockwise is the exact opposite; counterclockwise whole turns are in the opposite direction of the forward movement of the hands of a clock.

Whole turns don't just happen in math, they happen in the real world, too! Here are a few examples of whole turns:

  • A ballerina doing a pirouette
  • A skateboarder turning a skateboard all the way around
  • The second hand on an analog clock going around for one full minute

What's a Half Turn?

Here's a question for you. If a whole turn is 360 degrees, how many degrees is a half turn? Well, what's half of 360? 180! A half turn is 180 degrees. Just like whole turns, they can be clockwise or counterclockwise. Here are a few real-world examples of half turns:

  • Walking down a straight hallway, realizing you're going the wrong way and walking back the other direction
  • The second hand on a clock going from the 12 to the 6
  • Making a U-turn

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