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Common mistakes made when reading time from the clock

Though the children enjoy to read the time by looking at the clock, however in many cases they tend to make mistakes. These mistakes could be out of carelessness or because the child did not under the concept properly. Here are some of the common mistakes which children usually make when reading the time from the clock.

☞ Incorrectly reading the hour hand when the minute hand is in between 50 and 59

We will try to understand this by an example. If the time is say 07:57.

In this case the minute hand is at 57 (which falls in between 50 and 59) and the hour hand is in between 7 and 8. It can be seen that the hour hand is so near to 8 that the children usually make the mistake of reading the time as 08:57.

Ways to teach the children to minimize this error
  • Unless the hour hand does not touch or cross the number (in this case 8), we have to take the previous number (in this case 7)
  • When the hour hand is in between the two numbers (in this case 7 and 8), we take the lower number (in this case it's 7)
  • ☞ Hour hand and minute hand confusion

    We will try to understand this by an example. If the time is say 03:00.

    In this case the minute hand is at 12 and the hour hand is at 3. Here sometimes the children make the mistake of interpreting that the minute hand is at 3 and the hour hand is at 12. Therefore the child interprets the time as 12:15

    Ways to teach the children to minimize this error
  • Carefully observe the length of both the hour and the minute hands. The smaller hand is the hour hand and the longer one is the minute hand
  • ☞ 07:15 - Quarter past 7 or Quarter to 7

    Though the children usually understand that a quarter is 15 minutes, however it is commonly seen that the children confuses whether
  • 7:15 is quarter past 7 or quarter to 7? (Correct answer is quarter past 7)
  • 6:45 is quarter past 7 or quarter to 7? (Correct answer is quarter to 7)

  • The same is true when the problem is put the other way round
  • What is quarter past 7? (common mistake that children make is by responding 6:45 instead of 7:15)
  • What is quarter to 7? (common mistake that children make is by responding 7:15 instead of 6:45)

  • Ways to teach the children to minimize this error
  • If the minute hand has passed 12, it is past. If the minute hand is yet to reach 12, it is to
  • If the hour hand has passed 7, it is past. If the hour hand is yet to reach 7, it is to

    Note: Though the above example is for a quarter hour (15 minutes), this is true for any number of minutes.

    ☞ Incorrectly adding times

    Example: If a man starts at 4:25 from home and takes 45 minutes to reach the post office. At what time did he reach the post office?

    04:25
    + 00:45
    04:70

    In the above case the answer should have been 05:10.

    Ways to teach the children to minimize this error
  • When the minute is more than 59, we have to subtract the total minute (in this case 70) by 60 to get the minute (10 in this case [70−60=10]) and carry over 1 to the hour.
  • ☞ Incorrectly subtracting times

    Example: If a woman starts walking at 9:58 from home and reaches the bank at 10:15. How much time did she take to reach the bank?

    10:15
    − 09:58
    00:57

    In the above case the answer should have been 00:17.

    Ways to teach the children to minimize this error
  • When the minute borrows 1 from the hour, we have to subtract the total minute (in this case 70) by 60 to get the minute (10 in this case [70 − 60=10]) and carry over 1 to the hour.
  • ☞ Incorrectly reading the minute hand

    If the time is say 09:25. Here the common mistake is seen when the child reads it as 09:05. The child reads the number at which the minute hand is pointing to, rather than converting into minute's.

    Ways to teach the children to minimize this error
  • The number to which minute hand is pointing to should be multiplied by 5 to get the minute.


  • The best way to remove the above confusion and to ensure the children have less chance of committing mistakes is to practice the problems related to the above situations. Click on Tell me the time to practice.

    We will be happy to hear from you. To leave a feedback or share your experience about any type of mistake made while solving Math problem, please click My Comment.

    Given below are other commonly made mistakes in Math:
    Clock Reading Time | Exponents & Power | Whole to number-word | Square root | Lines & Angles | Integers | Area Plane Figure | Perimeter Plane Figure | Algebraic Identities | Congruence of Triangles | Similar Triangles | Coordinate Geometry | Trigonometry | Solving equations | Polynomial | Division | Algebraic Expression | Average |
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