How to Tell the Time with 12-Hour and 24-Hour Clocks

How do we tell the time using the 24-hour clock?

If we’re using a 12-hour clock, we tell the time from 1 am to 12 noon and 1 pm until 12 midnight. If we’re using the 24-hour clock (sometimes known as a ‘military time clock’ in the USA), the time starts at 00.01 and finishes at 23:59. Midnight is written as 00:00.

Learning to read time at school

In year 1 (ages 5-6), your child will learn to tell the time in class using the 12-hour clock. Then, they will gradually progress to answering more complicated word problems about time, such as ‘Dad put the chicken in the oven at 1.15 pm then took it out 55 minutes later. What time did it come out of the oven?’

By the time they’re eight years old (year 4), they’ll have been introduced to the 24-hour clock.

How do we convert from the 12-hour to the 24-hour clock?

Once we get past 1 pm on a 12-hour clock, we add 12 hours to the time shown on the clock face. Therefore, 1 pm is 13:00, 2 pm is 14:00, 3 pm is 15:00, 4 pm is 16:00, and so on. 12-hour clocks are also known as analog clocks.

Here are some more examples:

  • 17:00 – 5 pm
  • 19:00 – 7 pm
  • 21:00 – 9 pm
  • 23:00 – 11 pm

Your child may be more used to a digital clock (24-hour/military time clock), but they’ll also need to show they can tell the time and solve time problems at school using digital and analog clocks.

Remember, 24-hour digital clocks have an hour and a minute display, separated by a colon, e.g., 21:15. The hours always go before the colon, and the minutes always go after the colon.

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