How to Use a Clock Face to Understand Fractions

Written by rhomylly forbes
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How to Use a Clock Face to Understand Fractions
You can use a clock to teach fractions. (clock image by Elena Nabokova from

Fractions are tough to learn, but the more hands-on experiences students have with the concept of 1/4, 1/3 and 2/5, the quicker they'll figure them out. Round objects like pies -- actual or simply depicted on paper -- have been used to teach kids fractions for decades. If you want to help your students learn fractions and practice their time-telling skills in the same lesson, use a clock face to help them master basic fractions.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Non-digital clock
  • Worksheets with clock faces drawn on them
  • Pencils

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  1. 1

    Pretend the minute hand is broken. Start by helping the students master the concept that the clock face is divided into twelve equal parts. Start with both hands at 12:00. Move the hour hand from 12:00 to 1:00 and ask them what fraction of the clock face the hand moved (1/12). Move the hour hand to 3:00 and ask again (3/12 or 1/4 of the way around). Ask the students to make up fractions by moving the hour hand themselves.

  2. 2

    Transition to the minute hand. Repeat the exercise with a base of 60 instead of 12, and pretend the hour hand is broken. Move the minute hand to 4 and ask the students how many minutes have "passed" (20) and what fraction of the hour that is (20/60 or 1/3). Again, have the students make up their own fractions by moving the hand themselves.

  3. 3

    Add fractions. Once the students grasp the basic fractions that can be represented on a clock face, introduce the concept of adding the fractions together. Ask "What is half an hour plus a quarter of an hour?" and use the minute hand to demonstrate the answer (45/60 or 3/4). Make up other fraction addition problems using the clock until the students are comfortable with the concept.

  4. 4

    Allow time to practice. Factor time into the lesson for the students to practice with worksheets covered with clock faces.

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