Making Time: Words, Narratives, and Clocks in Elementary Mathematics

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  • 1 University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • | 2 University of Montana

This article investigates the interplay of time words with how children position hands on an analog clock. Using a mathematics discourse framework (Sfard, 2008), we analyzed how students interpreted precise (e.g., 2:30) and relative (e.g., half past 11) times, finding that particular words are dynamically interwoven with activity. Interviews with students in Grades 2 and 4 revealed that different prompts led to different narrative descriptions about time on the clock, with precise times leading to whole-number descriptions and relative times to part-whole descriptions consistent with fractions. Subsequent analysis of assessment performance for students across Grades 2–5 corroborated that specific time prompts led to particular clock interpretations. Implications for theory and the K–12 treatment of time measure are discussed.

Footnotes

This article was accepted under the editorship of Jinfa Cai.

Contributor Notes

Darrell Earnest, College of Education, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Furcolo Hall W157, 813 N. Pleasant Street, Amherst, MA 01002; dearnest@educ.umass.edu

John Chandler, Department of Management and Marketing, University of Montana, 32 Campus Drive, Missoula, MT 59812; john.chandler@business.umt.edu

Journal for Research in Mathematics Education
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