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Teaching time

Q. How do you help a dyslexic 13-year-old pupil who has just learnt to read analogue time but doesn't relate it to real time? She can now look at a clock and read that it is, say, 3.15pm but as far as she is concerned this could be lunch time, or last thing in the evening. How can I help her take the clock time to actual daytime?

A. To help relate the time to the actual time of day it would be a good idea to teach her to read the time on a sundial, relating this time to the time she is able to read on her watch. There are instructions on how you can make and calibrate a sundial at reading.html spot-on-sundials has plastic sundials available for pound;20. There is also a related site with information and a history of sundials.

It would also be really helpful to her to relate the clock time to activities that happen throughout the day. I would bring the parents in to help create posters to guide her.

Have a picture of a clock with the time written underneath and encourage her to collect pictures of events that go with that time. For example, pictures of people arriving at school, herself having breakfast etc. This will help her to have images which go with that time.

I expect she also has difficulty in estimating time. Having her own stopwatch might be useful as this will also help her develop her sense of time.

Q. I teach adults with learning difficulties. Some of my students do not seem to have a concept of number. Do you have any ideas on ways that might help them develop an understanding of what a number is?

A. It is important that we offer number in a variety of formats as we teach it from an early age, as otherwise misconceptions and lack of development can take place. I wonder how I would interpret the response of a three-year-old asked to show you the number five who holds up their little finger? Perhaps they have been taught to count on their fingers and the number five has always been on that finger.

This question also arose recently when I was working with staff from the Adult Education team in Bristol at their annual conference. We discussed the dances "Figure it Out" which are on of the numbers 1 to 10. In the dances, the Year 8 students from Cotham performing arts college in Bristol create the different combinations that make up the number; the number bonds for that number. For example, the number five is made up of four and one and three and two etc. There is a musical script that complements the dances and also illustrates the number bonds through the pattern in the music. Your learners can create their own number dances.

These dances could be filmed so that they can also see the number from a distance. Relate these numbers to the notation for number as well.

This can be followed by a trip to the supermarket where the students can look at and photograph the food arranged on the shelves. Students can bring back cans of baked beans and look at the different arrangements back in the classroom, as well as making patterns for themselves with the different numbers (this could be achieved by using different coloured small round stickers). Set the investigation on a particular number, say seven, and ask them how many different patterns they can make. Get them also representing these numbers as tallies of matchsticks.

Email your questions to Mathagony Aunt at Or write to TES Teacher, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX

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