Why Is It 9:00 and Not 9:12?

Written by Donna Boucher

Donna has been a teacher, math instructional coach, interventionist, and curriculum coordinator. A frequent speaker at state and national conferences, she shares her love for math with a worldwide audience through her website, Math Coach’s Corner. Donna is also the co-author of Guided Math Workshop.

I was in a delightful 1st grade class yesterday observing a mini-lesson on telling time to the hour and half hour. The teacher was putting cards showing analog clocks on the document camera, and the kiddos were writing the times on their white boards. This was a fairly new skill to them.  I noticed that when the teacher put up the card for 9:00, several students wrote 9:12 on their boards. Can you figure out why? Well, the minute hand is pointing to the 12. of course.

When you think about it, reading an analog clock is a VERY abstract concept. We say the numeral the hour hand is pointing to, but we count by 5s for the minute hand. Not to mention the fact that they have to remember which is the minute hand and which is the hour hand.

Great anchor chart for introducing clocks and time
Piggy card on the document camera

So a couple of tips:

  1. On the card the teacher was showing, she wrote 00 on top of the 12 and 30 below the 6.  This is probably just the visual support some kids need.  Of course, you still want to spend some time in a small group with the kids explaining why we say 30 when the minute hand is on the 6.
  2. To help kids remember the minute hand and hour hand, I tell them the following tip.  The word hour is the shorter word, and the hour hand is the shorter hand.  The word minute has more letters, and it is the longer hand.
  3. I always have kids decide on and write the hour first.  I have them circle the two hours the hour hand is between, and then write the hour it has already gone past.
Circle the the two hours the hour hand is between.  Which one has it already gone past?
Like the piggies?  Check out my This Little Piggy: Telling Time to the Hour and Half Hour unit at my TpT store!


  1. Mona

    Thank you so much for this. It really is a difficult skill for first graders. I also find that they don’t see analog clocks as much anymore. Their worlds are filled with digital clocks.

  2. Anonymous

    If you teach fractions first it helps with the notion of half an hour. Take one hour – full clock and then cut in half. Also use cubes to make a set of 60 and then have the kids move into 2 equal sets or 30 per group. Very visual.


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