Dyscalculia and Reading The Clock: How to manage?

Last Updated on October 11, 2023 by Editorial Team

What time is it?

 If you have an analog clock in sight, it will probably take you a millisecond to answer that. But a passing gaze to read the clock is a mundane, simple day job that may be an uphill task for some people.

Dyscalculia or Mathematics dyslexia is a condition where the person concerned may have difficulty with numbers or arithmetic-related activities. A rough estimate pegs the number of this condition at 3% to 6%.

However, with nuanced teaching techniques and simple aids, the severity of the problem at hand can be reduced to a considerable measure.

Reading the clock being a dyscalculic: The issues faced

1. The clock hands placement

 A person with dyscalculia may have a problem differentiating between the hour hand and the minute hand and the meaning of their different placements in the analog clock.

clock hands

Sometimes a third hand-“the seconds” hand that is found in many clocks may add to the confusion. The person with dyscalculia may also have a problem with correlating the 1,2,… on the clock with 5,10,15 minutes…and so on.

2. The clock language

We know that 3:15 in the morning, 3: 15 AM, or Quarter past 3 mean all the same. However, a person with dyscalculia may have a problem grasping the concept of the language of the time. Anything after the hour’s hand time may be slightly difficult for them to comprehend. Practice with multiple-time terminologies is the only way to lessen this problem.

3. The rise of digital clocks

Today more and more places are replacing the analog clock with the digital clock. Many schools have also stopped teaching the analog clock. This is both a boon and doom.

digital clock

While an average person might be able to get the hang of the analog clock with even home teaching, a person with dyscalculia may require much more time and practice to get a sense out of it. Even with the rise of digital watches, which make it much easier for them to understand time, being able to read the analog clock is important for them to exercise their minds with respect to numerals.

4. The lack of awareness

A general lack of awareness around dyscalculia is the biggest problem in the scenario. People assume that the children that are unable to comprehend numbers and hence read the analog clock are plain lazy, which can be demoralizing for the children.

It is also important to remember that proper teaching techniques might be able to lessen the severity of the issue, but a person with dyscalculia may still not get entirely comfortable with the analog clock. A general acceptance of the fact for both the persons concerned and the people around them can go a long way in giving the person with dyscalculia the confidence to take slow and steady steps towards analog clock reading.

How to manage?

Teaching a person with dyscalculia to read the clock requires a lot of time, patience, and practice. However, the right way through this learning disability can also yield very positive and encouraging results.

clock reading practice

1. Understand the clock

Getting a basic understanding of the clock is the first step in this direction. A clock mostly consists of two hands: the hour hand and the minute hand. Since there are more minutes than hours, the minute hand is longer and the hour hand is shorter. Sometimes there is a second hand too.

Since seconds in an hour are numerically more than minutes, it is a good way to remember that the second hand will be the longest. The analog clock is divided into two 12-hour brackets which gives us the AM and PM time. Thus the clock has 12 numerals from one to 12.

2. Practice clockwise direction

The child may have difficulty understanding the difference between the clockwise and anti-clockwise directions. It is thus very important to practice the clockwise direction in multiple manners and ways.

You can start by asking the child to draw the clockwise direction with a pencil on paper, multiple times. Whenever you play a group game, always start the turn in a clockwise manner so that the pattern is imprinted in the child’s mind.

Ask the child to arrange his toys in a clockwise manner. Once the pattern is established, reading the analog clock will become easier for him\her.

3. Learn the numbers and their associations

Teach the child to remember the numbers 1 to 12 in a row and their proper order. Then teach the multiplication of 5. The next step will then be to teach the child to associate 1 with 5, 2 with 10, 3 with 15, and so on.  This may require a lot of practice and patience is the key to the entire process.

4. Position of hands

One very important concept while reading analog clocks is that the hour hand is not always at the said number. At 07:05 AM it will be close to 7 but at 07:55, it will be almost on the 8 number.

However, even when the hour hand is almost 8, we will write it and say it as 07:55. Understanding this concept requires a lot of practice too.

5. Write down the number

Initially, while practicing clock reading, it may help to write down the number. The children can start with the hour hand. If it is between, say, 1 and 2; they can write the number that is before on a sheet of paper. In this case, it is 1. They can then add two dots to it.

Then have a look at the minute hand. If it is 4, they can multiply the number by 5. That turns out to be 20. Add the number on the sheet. Thus, the time turns out to be 01: 20.

Once they get comfortable, with the method, they can start practicing reading the clock orally.

6. Mastering the language

The final step would be to master the language of ‘quarter past’ and ‘quarter before’. This will help them communicate effectively with others. This task falls at a slightly difficult level for persons with dyscalculia, but practice can help overcome the hurdle to a significant amount.

Final thoughts

  • Practice, Patience, and Perseverance: Although we have mentioned it multiple times, we would still like to reiterate the point one more time. Practice, patience, and perseverance are the keys to mastering the analog clock and generally, everything else in life. Remember even a small rivulet can carve the rock if it flows on it long enough.
  • Don’t give up on the analog watch: Although digital watches are a boon for people with dyscalculia, we will still ask you to not give up on the analog watch just as yet. It is important to know how to read them primarily because they have yet not become completely obsolete and also because getting to read the clock will help you get a step ahead of your number problems in other aspects as well.
  • Don’t lose heart: If after all your efforts, you still are not able to achieve the level of efficiency you desire in clock reading, do not lose heart. Dyscalculia is a minor glitch in your life journey and not at all the central core of your story. Technology today is moving at a fast pace and what is impossible today can very well be the mundane of tomorrow.

So keep the spirit high and own the time.

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