Why Do Students Struggle with Learning About Time and Money?
Time and money measurements can pose difficulties because they require the application of indirect scales. That is, when measuring the length of a room or the capacity of a glass of milk, one could place a meter stick end to end from one side of a room to the other or pour liquid into a calibrated measuring container; rocks can be placed on a scale to measure their mass as indicated on the the instrument’s dial. However, clocks cannot be placed next to an hour to measure time, nor a dime next to an object to determine its monetary value. Measuring time is complex because it requires the knowledge and skill of reading an analog clock and the understanding of points in and duration of time periods. As well, determining currency value is challenging because coins have no visible measurement markings on them and coins and paper bills are not proportional to their value; a nickel is physically larger than a dime but represents less purchasing power.
An additional reason that the expression of time and money measures is challenging is the issue of new and confusing vocabulary. For example, 45 minutes after 6:00 can also be referred to as 6:45 or 15 minutes before 7:00. A quarter until 7:00, or a quarter of 7:00, and even a quarter before 7:00 all refer to the same clock time. With reference to the clock, “before and after” are not clear to many students. Fifty cents can also be called “half dollar” and expressed as $0.50 or 50 cents.
The scales of clock and currency must be understood, in terms of both their own structure and their application. Students’ errors, then, have much to do with the understanding and skill of reading the instruments, using unfamiliar notation correctly, understanding time duration as well as the value and system of combining coins and bills, and dealing with confusing vocabulary terms.
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