If you’ve ever taught elapsed time to 3rd graders, you know how much of a challenge it can be. Let’s dive into some of my favorite time and elapsed time math centers that are sure to spark engagement in your classroom!
Tip for Teaching Telling Time
One thing I learned while teaching third grade is that reviewing the basics of time early on in the school year can be so beneficial! You can expose your students to reading times on a clock daily. It can be as simple as pausing and asking “What time is it right now?” while students are working on an activity or they’re getting ready to transition to a new subject.
Providing opportunities for students to practice these basics will help them build a strong foundation as they start solving elapsed time problems.
Time & Elapsed Time Math Centers
Math centers provide students with opportunities to interact with content in a different way. Blocks of time are set aside, allowing students to extend their learning through hands-on activities. Students will take learning into their own hands and share their thinking with a small group of peers.
These time and elapsed time center activities make learning fun, interactive, and collaborative for students! The activities will expose them to real-world examples of elapsed time that are relatable to their everyday life.
Time & Elapsed Time Math Centers
Review telling time and elapsed time with these 9 hands-on math centers. Your students will enjoy interacting with task cards, board games, puzzles, and more!
For students to understand how to solve elapsed time problems, they must first have an understanding of how to tell time using an analog clock. This Build the Time activity mat gives students practice with identifying and recreating the time on a clock.
For this activity, students will choose a time task card. They will identify the digital time depicted on the task card and then recreate it on a printable analog clock with movable hands. This activity gives students practice with reading both types of clocks and is a perfect review activity before starting your 3rd grade elapsed time unit.
This interactive activity gives students additional practice with reading analog clocks. Each task card depicts a clock or a watch. Students must determine the time pictured and then “clip” one of the three answer choices listed on each task card using a clothespin.
To incorporate key vocabulary, some answer choices are in written form such as “half past 5”. This helps familiarize students with time vocabulary that they will hear in the real world.
One of the best strategies for teaching students how to use elapsed time is to find an end time using a number line.
For this activity, students use a laminated number line mat, a whiteboard marker, and elapsed time word problem cards. Students read each word problem scenario which shares a start time and how long an activity took (elapsed time).
Students then use the start time and the elapsed time to solve for the end time. The included task cards feature multiple-choice and short answer questions to provide differentiation and additional support.
Incorporating competitive games during math centers is one of my favorite ways to engage students and get them excited about rigorous content!
This board game will have students competing against each other as they navigate 36 time and elapsed time word problems. As students provide the correct answer, they’ll roll the die and move their game piece across the board. This resource contains a set of both multiple-choice and open-ended task cards to differentiate your math centers based on your students’ needs.
I love using board games during my teacher-led math center. This lets me see which questions the majority of students are struggling with and use that data to plan my reteaching.
However, if you want to use this activity as an independent center, a front and back printable answer key option is included so that students can simply flip the card over to check their answers.
Reading and understanding a schedule is one real-world example of using elapsed time. This activity provides students with a schedule of the different animal shows that will take place at the zoo. Students use the information on the schedule to calculate start and end times, decide the duration of each show, and solve for how much time elapsed between each show. This problem-based learning activity includes 24 task cards in multiple choice and open-ended formats.
Teaching the concept of AM and PM can be a little tricky for 2nd and 3rd grade students. This AM and PM sorting activity is great for exposing students to realistic scenarios of the morning, afternoon, and evening activities.
Students will sort task cards into two different buckets. One bucket is labeled AM and the other bucket is labeled PM. For this activity, students read the time and activity on each task card Using this information, students determine if the activity happens in the AM or PM. Students will write the correct time and drop the bone task card into the correct bag. Once they’ve completed the sort, students can check their answers by scanning the QR code on each card.
This is a fun twist on the classic game of Connect Four. Students work in pairs to identify end times using riddles containing start time and elapsed time.
Once a student solves the riddle, they place one of their game pieces over the answer on their Connect 4 board. Then, their partner takes a turn. Play continues until one student has four in a row or until the entire board is filled. This game is perfect for differentiating your math centers as it contains two sets of task cards. One involves problems that can be solved using mental math and the other involves problems that require students to count past the hour.
Puzzles are another fun, hands-on tool that sparks instant engagement during math centers! These elapsed time puzzles are great for extra practice working with start and end times.
Students will have two halves of a puzzle. One half will list the start time and end time and the other half of the puzzle will list the elapsed time. They will determine how much time has passed between the start and end time and find the matching puzzle piece. Students can complete the puzzles independently, with a partner, or in small groups.
An elapsed time worksheet is also included if you want students to complete the puzzle activity but don’t have time to prep all of the pieces.
This telling time activity gives students additional practice with reading digital and analog clocks. Students are given a file folder game that includes a clock mat with digital clocks on it. Students must read the time on the clock and then locate the matching analog clock piece. Once they have found the matching piece, they will attach it above the digital clock using velcro. There are three differentiated clock mats included. This activity is great because you can print and laminate it once and students can use it over and over again. Perfect for early finishers, morning work, and centers!
I hope these time and elapsed time math centers help strengthen your 3rd grade students’ understanding of this challenging topic in a fun, engaging way.