An Easy Way to Teach Elapsed Time

20 September 2015 / 3 comments
Teaching elapsed time…does it kinda make you want to pull your hair out? During my first few years of teaching, I struggled to teach this concept because I didn't have a "trick" for teaching it. We made clocks on paper plates and counted the time as the hands went around (insert visualization of me pulling my hair out of my head here), we calculated the hours and minutes, then converted the minutes to hours (only a smidgen of greater success), and then we started listing the hours and minutes on a chart (this was a vast improvement from the paper plate attempt, but there were still too many question marks floating above heads for me to be satisfied). Although each change made teaching elapsed time a little easier, I was definitely not satisfied with the way my elapsed time lessons were going. If there's one thing a teacher greatly dislikes, it's knowing that their students aren't "getting" what they are teaching and I was very much feeling that way. 

I explained my elapsed time frustrations to a former colleague of mine who just happened to be a math specialist. I asked her if she had any ways to make elapsed time easier. That's when I learned about the elapsed time number line, and it was a serious game changer. I was going to go in to detail about how this works, and then I fell upon this fantastic video from Mr. Avery at The Avery Bunch. I'll let his students walk you through it! 

Used with permission from Mr. Shawn Avery at The Avery Bunch

When I brought this knowledge back to my classroom and began to teach elapsed time with number lines,  I saw light bulb moments all over the room! This method was a total game changer for both teacher and students. Instead of dreading this lesson, I now look forward to it because I am confident that students will understand it.

I hope that you will find this method as useful as I have. I've created some notes to guide my students through this process. You can grab them by clicking on the image below:


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this tip, Rachel.

    1. You're welcome! I hope that others will find it as helpful as I have!

  2. Always such helpful teaching advice, Rachel! Thanks for sharing :)
    The Techie Teacher


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