2. Cross-curricula practical work

“Some people can tell what time it is by looking at the sun. But I have never been able to make out the numbers” (Attributed to writing by a primary pupil)

You may find it helpful to work together with the history teacher, to explore more deeply how time was measured in different cultures throughout history. As well as story telling, this can become activity based – your pupils will probably enjoy practically experimenting with some of these ancient methods of time telling, such as making a candle clock or sundial. This will show your pupils that mathematics is important to many areas of life and study, and has always been so in the past. This part uses other experts like the history teacher to work with you to gather information and teach your class and also uses a practical activity of making a sun dial to stimulate and motivate your pupils. Guidance is given on ways to organise your class.

Case Study 2: Using other experts to help teach time

Mrs.Odoom told her pupils stories of how people in her father’s village used to tell the time of day and to know when to arrange ceremonies and events. She asked them if they knew how the length of the shadow cast by a pole was used to determine when to do certain activities and the time for observing Muslim prayers.

She asked the history teacher to help by telling other stories about how time was measured long ago. The history teacher told them about birds that sing at certain periods of the day or night, like cocks that crow in the morning and of the relationship between the raining-dry-hamattan seasons and clearing-sowing-harvesting times. She told them of how some people used the moon to tell the time over a month.

By working with the history teacher, Mrs.Odoom showed her pupils that mathematics is not an isolated subject, and she herself learned some new examples and ideas about time that she did not know before. (See Resource 1 , Resource 2 , and Resource 3 for some examples.)

Activity 2: Measuring time using a sundial or shadow clock.

Familiarise your pupils with sundials (or shadow clocks as they are sometimes called) and how they work and collect some sticks and chalk before the lesson. (Resource 3 will help you.)

Ask each group of pupils to make simple sundials using card, a pencil or stick and some plasticine /mud or put the stick in the ground.

Use the plasticine/mud to hold the stick up on the card; place the sundials outside. Ask pupils to mark the sticks shadow at certain times of the day – ‘School begins’, ‘Maths class begins’, ‘Break time’, ‘Lunch time’ and so on, throughout the day.

At end of day compare the dials. Discuss how the shadow has moved. Can they explain why?

They could use themselves as the shadow and watch what happens to their shadow as the day progresses and think how this would help tell the time.

Share their results at the end of school and list the key changes they notice about the change of their shadows.

1. Using group work to discuss ‘time’

3. Using local resources to teach telling the time