Friday, April 25, 2014

Real-Life Learning: Teaching Elapsed Time

"Mom, can I use your phone?"

"We want to see how long it takes to get home!"

Elapsed time. A very abstract concept for a concrete six-year-old learner. The concept is often taught on paper with a story problem:

Emily is baking chocolate cake. The cake must bake for 38 minutes. If Emily puts the cake in the oven at 2:15 pm, what time will she need to take the cake out of the oven?

Most children learn elapsed time by this manner. This is a necessary piece of the elapsed time puzzle. However, there is another piece many parents and teachers miss. Internal, personal understanding of elapsed time is not something that can taught on paper. It must be experienced, not just once, but many times. Understanding this part of the elapsed time concept is a necessity for life. Without it, time management is nearly impossible.

"Don't start the car yet! I have to set the time. When I tell you, turn the key."

Seconds later I was told to start the car. The stop watch on my phone ticking away, I pulled out of the parking space. Heads craned around confining seat belts (though we were excited about learning, I reminded learners they must remain in their seat belts). Shouts of learning excitement filled the car.

"It's two minutes thirty seconds!" An older learner shouted. Little learner listened, as the digital numbers were read orally; another important skill.

"Now it's four minutes twenty-nine seconds!"

Six minutes forty-two seconds later, we pulled in the driveway. 

We experienced lapsed time, visually, auditorily, and kinesthetically.

We unpacked groceries and learners had more ideas:
  • How long will it take to fill a gallon milk jug with water, faucet open as far as possible?
  • How long will it take for a marble to roll down the KNEX ramp?
  • How long will it take me to get dressed?
  • How long will it take for water to boil?
  • How long will it take for the clothes to dry in the dryer?  or Is the time on the dryer dial accurate?
  • How long will it take for us to get to the library? Does it take longer to go to the library than to the grocery store? (Comparison of time is the next level of elapsed time. Write down each elapsed digital time and subtract to find the difference.We do this every day! )
Teaching elapsed time can be fun and relative to life.

It can also help children and young adults plan their days well. Will I have enough time to brush my teeth and still read an extra paragraph before emptying the dishwasher for mom? Will I have time to stop for gas and still get to work on time? 

If you are looking for ways to make take math off paper for little learners ages 4 through 8, you may find A Month of Math: Measurement or A Month of Math: Geometry helpful resources.

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