The teenager can’t tell the time.
At all. She has absolutely no clue. Nothing. No concept of seconds, minutes or hours, no grasp of quarter past, quarter to, half past, five past, twenty past. Nothing. She doesn’t understand any of it. She can’t tell you how long an hour and a half is or 3 hours or anything. She doesn’t even know how many hours are in a day. If we tell her bed time is in 10 minutes, she just stares blankly at the clock, and cannot tell us where the “big hand” will be when those 10 minutes have passed.
I’m at a loss. Regrettably, I completely lost my shit when I told her to put her soup in the microwave for 90 seconds, and she just pawed at the buttons before deciding that 3 minutes was a better time and skulking out of the kitchen with her incandescent soup. I asked her to tell me how many minutes 90 seconds is, and she just stood there, blank face, wringing her hands together. I broke it down for her. How many seconds in a minute? So if you have 90 seconds that’s a minute (60 seconds) and 30 seconds added together. 30 seconds is half a minute, so how long is 90 seconds?
Uuum. 3 minutes? She says.
She just stands there, “lights on, no one home” staring in to nothing. She shuts down. She stops reacting to everything and anything, almost trance like. I don’t know if this is a defence mechanism, it probably is, but it infuriates me to the point where I want to slap her as hard as I can, and tell her to stop being so dumb (or insolent, or whatever she is being) . (I will never do either, although I’m ashamed to admit I have shouted a few times)
Today, to try and avoid a meltdown, we tried a different approach. We made learning to tell the time “fun” we went Montessori inspired, we had a whiteboard marker pen and scribbled all over the patio doors, with various badly drawn clock shapes, we added big hands and small hands to clocks to depict the time written above them, we added 10 minutes, we took away 15 minutes. We looked at 1/4 1/2 and 3/4 of an hour and learnt the minutes they represent. It went well for 5 minutes. Then just like that, the trembling bottom lip, the blank stare, the clenched fists and the angry voice shouting “I can’t do it” pushing past me and running upstairs.
She was doing great. She got all the times right, she put the big hands and small hands in the correct place, she was happily telling me that 7.50 becomes 8 o clock if 10 minutes have passed, and just like that, out of nowhere. She had a meltdown, like all of a sudden she realised she didn’t want to be doing this, and running away was the only option.
So here I am , on a Saturday afternoon, trawling the Internet for primary school level “time telling” worksheets whilst simultaneously looking up maths tutors, and wondering if maybe she has dyscalculia, or if she’s just so used to not being helped, that now she doesn’t want to learn.
I will be speaking to the school on Monday. She’s in top set for everything, but panics and tries to “pull a sickie” on days where she has a maths lesson. There’s definitely a deep deep problem with numbers and maths in general, which is quite clearly directly correlated to her not being able to tell the time, or even weigh out ingredients when we’re baking.
This is a big one and a tough one. Being able to tell the time is huge. How can we let her go and play with friends if she has no concept of what “be home in 2 hours” means?
I’m so angry. Not at her. Just that she’s been allowed to get to 13 years of age without any help or encouragement. Without anyone stopping and taking the time to tell her or explain to her how something works. For the old school in France telling her “to do some colouring” if she didn’t understand. For mum saying “ugh, maths, I hate maths” or “ugh no, I can’t do that, that’s ridiculous” whenever Claire did get any homework. I feel like she’s not only been let down, but been allowed, to some extent to be lazy, to not try and learn, because it was ok for her to not bother. I’m angry because for her, maths has been turned in to this big scary monster that she has no hope of ever conquering.
Baby steps. We will get there. She will overcome her fear. Even if she needs therapy, or whatever. She will soon thrive in Maths in the same way she thrives with languages or science, or geography, and hopefully, conquering maths will conquer her shyness, will crack that last little part of her shell and let her blossom in to a confident young woman.
Update: 18 months on. Maths is no longer a monster. She can read a clock. She’s still not at the level you’d expect an almost 15 year old to have, but now she has a willingness to learn, and I have more patience. She is now almost at a level where she will pass her GCSE maths and that is a huge relief.