Mingoville Fun Clock

Time Flies When You’re Playing Mingoville Fun Clock

Mingoville Fun Clock

Disclaimer: Mingoville Fun Clock has been an EDUKWEST sponsor in the past.

Last year, the New York Times reported that analog wristwatches were experiencing something of a fashion “renaissance,” as chic young urbanites, accustomed to checking mobile phones or other gadgets for the time of day, grew nostalgic for the stylish way a watch ties an outfit together. Few will deny the visual appeal of a shiny timepiece on one’s wrist. I have personally been wearing the same watch for several years. It’s analog, and actually rather difficult to read. In fact, it has only two vertical hash marks on its face: one at 12, and one at 6. I have been told on more than one occasion, “I can’t read your watch,” and I have even picked it up and tried to read it upside down before (very confusing). Could it be that we are now so habituated to reading the time in a digital numeric format that our skills for reading analog clocks are greatly suffering?

The Common Core State Standards Initiative, which has been adopted by the majority of the United States, recommends that children learn to tell and write time from analog clocks within five minutes of accuracy by second grade, and to be within one minute of accuracy by third grade. While telling time is certainly an important and useful skill, there is remarkably little research in developmental psychology on learning how to tell time. Case and colleagues (1996) found that while analog clocks are ubiquitous in classrooms and school hallways, children receive very little direct instruction in how to tell time.

As mentioned on a previous episode of C12, Stephan Stephensen and the team at Mingoville recognized a unique opportunity for teaching the important skill of how to read analog clocks by using digital touchscreen devices. Thus, Mingoville Fun Clock was born.

The app is available for several languages for both iOS and Android devices. The version I previewed included options for Italian, English, (Mandarin) Chinese, and French. With increasing levels of difficulty, an animated flamingo named Jonathan takes the user through the placement of numbers and hands on an analog clock, and asks them to identify times accurate to the hour, half hour, quarter hour, five minutes, and one minute, as the levels increase in difficulty. The game requires the player to show their time telling knowledge by indicating where hands should be either by placing a ball in the correct spot, or by moving the hands to the accurate time, and also quizzes them in a multiple choice format. An engaging character (Jonathan) and storyline (the clock is broken at the train station) guides the user through with humorous dialogue. Each round is untimed, but errors are taken into account when you are trying to advance through each level.

I think that Mingoville Fun Clock is an interesting way to teach kids a skill that is important and applicable to more than just reading analog clocks. As Chris mentioned in his interview with Mingoville CEO Stephan on C12, understanding the spatial layout of a clock also has implications for fractions as well as geometry.

One suggestion I have is to work on localization a bit. As Mingoville is a European company, I found certain phrases used in the English version relatively unfamiliar, though still understandable in American English. In my experience, “half past” the hour is used with far lower frequency than “three thirty,” and there are regional differences in using “quarter to” (sometimes “quarter of”) and “quarter past” (or “quarter after”). When it came to smaller increments of time, a phrase like “13 minutes to 7” also seemed a bit odd to my American ears. Interestingly, when using the Mandarin version, I found the opposite linguistic issue to be true for the “half hour” level. The Chinese speaking Jonathan would read times off like “八點三十分,” which roughly translates as “8 o’clock, 30 minutes,” but in reality I typically hear times spoken in Mandarin as “八點半,” or (approximately) “8 o’ clock half.”

Overall, I enjoyed exploring the Mingoville Fun Clock in both English and Mandarin, and certainly recommend it for youngsters who might need some help with their clock skills. Check it out on the App Store or Google Play!


Alicia Chang is EDUKWEST's Science & West Coast Editor. She is a cognitive and developmental psychologist (Ph.D., UCLA, 2008) with research interests in language and cognitive development, the effects of language and culture on cognition, and cognitive science applications to STEM education. She lives and works in Silicon Valley. You can follow her on Twitter @aliciac and Google+.

  • Anonymous

    review. Wonderful intro. I also thought that analog watches were going the way
    of the dinosaur so thanks for pointing out their educational relevance.

    What I missed though was two things that are probably beyond the scope of this
    article. First, why parents should consider this particular app (as an example of good instructional design?) and second, how children might
    react to the app in situ. As a materials writer I try my best to go beyond just
    giving kids a fun experience. In fact, it can happen that having fun sometimes
    gets in the way of a learning. I’m left wondering if this app is an example of:

    1. Something that is both fun and highly educational (gold standard)

    2. Something that is just fun (silver standard)

    3. Something that is educational but emotionally bone dry (bronze medal)

    4. Something that misses on all accounts (clunker)

    • According to feedback from parents, children were able to learn to tell the time on their own which was also somewhat the idea behind the app. Stephan wanted to prove that with iPads kids are able to perform self paced learning.

      One father said he spent months trying to teach his child the time and with the app she learned it in three days.

      • Anonymous

        Some things really jumped out at me based on your feedback.

        First, being able to get young children to learn someone on their own with an app is a FANTASTIC accomplishment. Find a way to bottle this magic… and quick. I would really like to hear more about how this was done. This is no mean feat.

        Second, It doesn’t surprise me that a kid learned quickly after her father spent three months trying to teach her to tell time. This might actually mean that the father was successful. Failure, in many educational settings, can be rectified by just a bit more time on task. This is one of the main ideas behind mastery learning.

        Three, any guidelines from the makers about how long it should take for children using this product to get to given point “X”? This kind of information (given all the necessary conditions like, for example, normal intelligence) tells me how well a app maker really knows it audience.

  • Daniel Holm Hansen

    The same features are found in their Mondiso math-learning website and apps, which have been made from scratch to fulfill the Common Core State Standards Initiative. It is told slightly different and with other assignments to solve – but the idea behind both are identical; Learn the difficult task it is to tell time in a funny way!