Milking maths: Take your time

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By John DabellYear 4 teacher at Forest Fields Primary and Nursery School in Nottingham

Devoting some extra minutes to investigating clock problems is sure to be time well spent


You can buy a bog-standard toilet from a DIY store, have it fitted and away you go. Or, you could buy the same toilet and change the white plastic seat for something creative and unique to spice up the bathroom. The same principle can be applied to a maths problem, sum or shape. Taking a bog-standard sum and finding other things to say about the numbers involved is an example of milking the maths. This involves jazzing up an otherwise routine task and exploring maths opportunities beyond the ordinary and expected.

In the last in the series, the focus this month is on time using analogue and 24-hour digital clocks. The questions that follow and Activity sheet, ‘Clock problems’ will help children to investigate time from different angles. Throughout the questions, the ‘filler’ zero (01:21) has been omitted from 24-hour digital times.


  1. Target boards
  2. Mystery numbers
  3. Consecutive times
  4. Clock puzzles

Mathematics Framework: Year 5, Block D – Units 1 and 3.

Learning objective: Read timetables and time using 24-hour clock notation; use a calendar to calculate time intervals.

Take the time to think of some questions that revolve around a clock and you’ll be surprised how much maths there is to milk. Use some of these examples to get you started – there are more on Activity sheet, ‘Clock problems’.

Q Add together the numbers on a 12-hour clock and subtract this from all the numbers added together on a 24-hour clock. A 300 – 78 = 222

Q Add the numbers 1-6, and 7-12. Divide your second answer by your first. Give this answer two decimal places. A 57 ÷ 21 = 2.71

Q What is the difference between opposite numbers on a clock? A 6

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