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Using Math Centers to Teach Time to Third Graders

By Nim

Here are two simple activities featuring time -- one involves a card game and the other uses a game on model clocks. These fun activities can be used in a math center for third graders.

Time Centers

Don't delay in adding these activities to your math center repertoire. The math center options described here will offer excellent practice and extension for third graders learning the concept of time. Children will further cement their knowledge of telling time to the minute by playing two games that can be supplemented with computers and text books.

You will need a few supplies: model clocks, which most math curriculums include in their manipulative kits, and playing cards with times on them (described later).

Time Card Game

The instructions for this memory game are so simple that your students will be ready to begin playing almost before you're done explaining the rules.

At the center station, students will work in groups of two to four. Each group will have its own set of playing cards. Half of the cards will have times that are displayed on a standard clock face, and the other half will be times printed digital clock style. There should be a one-to-one correspondence between the times, one clock face to match each digital time. Students will lay all cards out, faces flat on the ground, in a grid. They will then play a memory game, trying to find the matching pairs. In order to collect a pair, students must read the time aloud. The other children in the group will serve as judges -- if they notice that a student is not reading the time correctly, then that student does not get to keep the pair.

Before you can use this center, you will need to create the playing cards. This will take a little time up front, but after you have made the master sheets, you will just need to photocopy and cut in the future. The simplest way that I found of making math cards was to use the table function in Microsoft Office, creating a page of two columns and five or six rows, as many as would fit on a page. These will be your cards. If possible, I would print the different times and paste the clock faces into the rectangles; but if that is too complicated, you can simply draw the various times after printing out the card sheets.

Time Clock Game

At this station be sure to have enough model clocks so each student can use one.

Students will work in pairs at this station. They begin by setting the same time on both of their clocks. Have each student say the time aloud. Next, one child will hide her clock and change the time. He or she will tell their partner how much time has passed for that new time to be reached. The partner, then, must figure out what the new time is, and show that time on his or her model clock. Finally, children compare clocks to see if the times match and say aloud the new time. Afterwards, they switch roles and repeat the process, continuing this until their turn at that station is over.

To add a little fun to the game, you could prepare a scenario that assigns roles to each student. For instance, the child hiding the clock is a master, and the partner is a spy. The master is telling them the spy how much time they have to complete an assignment, and they want to know at what time that task will be completed. With or without a silly scenario, though, this center requires students to use the full extent of their time knowledge.

Although these centers work at different levels of understanding and application for students, both will save you time on teaching students to master this difficult math concept.