Time Problem Solving Activities

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Problem solving activities alone can help students in many ways, but by adding time elements these activities take on a whole new life. Here are some ideas for time-based problem solving activities for your classroom.

Time Activities

Problem-solving activities can be used to help teach students many skills. In this case, we'll be using problem-solving exercises to help students learn how to tell and use time. These activities are intended for elementary students but can be adapted for other students if needed.

Time Problem Solving Activities

Joining Hands

Divide the class into two groups: minute hands and hour hands. If possible, you can give each group different colored gloves to wear on one hand. Give each hour-hand student an image of an analog clock. Distribute copies of these same images to the minute-hand students. Hour-hand students will stretch out their hand in the direction of the hour hand on their image. Minute-hand students will do the same with the minute hand. Students must then find the person with the same image as them, completing their clock. When they are together, they must figure out what time they represent.

  • Materials: Images of analog clocks, colored gloves if desired

Crack the Time Code

Give students the key to a simple code that uses an analog clock or watch (i.e., A=12:00, B=12:15, etc.). Divide the class into pairs. Give each pair an analog watch (if possible). Students will use the key to write a short message in code by drawing small clock faces on a piece of paper that correlate to the letters of the message. Pairs will then switch their codes with another group, translate it, and reply.

  • Materials: Paper, analog watches if possible

A Quarter Till, A Quarter After

Give each student a set of cards with the numbers 1-12. Give each student a quarter. You may also provide them with an analog watch if possible. Present students with a series of scenarios, for example: ''I left home at 5:30 and it took me 45 minutes to get to the restaurant. What time did I arrive?'' Please ensure that all scenarios end either on the hour or fifteen minutes before or after the hour.

Students will figure out the time, then place the appropriate number card on their desk with a quarter either to the left (Till) or right (After) of the number. For example, in the above scenario, students would place the 6 card, with the quarter to the right, representing a quarter after six. This could get tricky because if it were 6:45, they would have to put out the 7 card and a quarter to the left (6:45= a quarter till seven).

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