Some people believe that life is not about how many breaths you take, but instead how many moments take your breath away. What’s for certain is that the time we have is precious. Spend some time today with those you love.

Seconds tick by and turn into minutes. Minutes turn into hours, and hours turn into days. The days turn into years and, before you know it, time has flown by.

Have you ever made a split-second decision? You were going to do X, but then…at the last second…you changed your mind and did Y instead. Maybe it was choosing the path less traveled instead of the wide road. Whatever the reason, mere seconds can be well spent and change lives forever.

Have you ever stopped to consider how many seconds you have? If every second counts, then let’s count the seconds we have. For example, how many seconds do we have in a day? A month? A whole year?

A wise man once said that there are 12 seconds in a year. January 2nd, February 2nd, March 2nd…OK, you get the picture. But those aren’t the seconds we’re talking about! We mean that small unit of time that’s about as long as it takes to say, “one thousand one.”

To figure out how many seconds there are in a year, we’re going to need to know a little math. To convert a certain quantity to a different unit of measure, we need to figure out what is called the conversion factor.

To do this, we need to come up with a ratio — or fraction — that equals one. In the ratio, the conversion factor is a multiplier that gets applied to the larger unit to convert it into the smaller unit through multiplication.

Sound confusing? Don’t worry. A simple example will make things clear. When thinking about how many seconds there are in a year, let’s first figure out the different units of measurement of time involved. We have the second, the minute, the hour, the day, the month and the year.

Let’s start with the largest of these measures: the year. To convert years to the next smallest unit — the month — we have to know how many months are in a year. Since we know there are 12 months in a year, our ratio would be 1:12 (one year:12 months) or 1/12. So, the conversion factor is 12.

If we want to know how many months are in 5 years, we just need to multiply the number of years by the conversion factor. Five years times 12 months/year equals 60 months in 5 years. Easy enough, right?

To figure out even smaller units, you can keep doing multiple conversions to smaller and smaller units. Just make sure that the units you’re using are all the same. For example, there are 24 hours in each day, but not all months have the same number of days. To convert one year to seconds, you’ll need to skip using months and convert to days, hours, minutes and finally seconds.

Each step of the way, you’ll need to compute the conversion factor and then multiply. Here’s what the conversion from one year to seconds would look like:

            1 year = 365 days (no, we’re not counting leap years!)

            1 day = 24 hours

            1 hour = 60 minutes

            1 minute = 60 seconds

So…drum roll, please…one year would equal 365 times 24 times 60 times 60 seconds…or 31,536,000 seconds! That’s over 31 million seconds you have to spend over the next year. What will you do with YOUR seconds?

36 Join the Discussion

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    • We’re super glad you learned something new from this Wonder of the Day®, Aidan! That’s a LOT of seconds, isn’t it? :-)

    • Hi, John! Thank you for your comment! We’re glad you learned something new about seconds, minutes and years today! :-)

  1. How did you guys figure that out?! That is a lot of seconds in a year. Imagine how many seconds are in five years! How many minutes are in a year and a month? That was a great wonder!

    • We agree, Jordan…that really IS a LOT of seconds! Thanks for letting us know that you thought this Wonder was GREAT! We think YOU are GREAT for leaving us this comment today! :-)

    • Hehe, you’ve got us chuckling today, Patrick! Thanks for telling us how many seconds (“2nd”) are in a year! :) We hope you have a WONDERful day! :)

    • Nice work, Lover of Wondering! We like your style– that was a great answer to our calendar Wonder! Thanks for sharing your comment! :)

    • Hi Madelyn! Thanks for WONDERing with us! You can divide that number by 12 and get your answer! What’s the number you come up with? We’d love to hear your math! Keep WONDERing! :)

  2. Our answer was 31,536,000. Can you make more problems like that? We really liked them!!!! Our group was the first to figure it out. It surprisingly didn’t that long.

  3. Did you subtract by 86199 because there are 23hrs and 56mins in a day that’s how long it takes for earth to do one rotation and I got 31471401 seconds

  4. Wrong! your math is correct but you are wrong there isn’t actually 24hours in a day. There is 23hours 56min and 4.1 seconds in a day. So by this there would actually be 31,449,896.5seconds in a year!

    • Thanks for your comment, Matthew! The shorter time period you mention is called a sideral day, which is the time it takes the Earth to make a full rotation with respect to distant stars. However, as Earth turns also around the Sun, it has to turn a little bit more each day to find the Sun at the same place. So, in relation to the Sun, one day equals 24 hours (86,400 seconds). We’re glad to have you spending your seconds WONDERing with us!

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Have you ever wondered…

  • How many seconds are in a year?
  • What is a conversion factor?
  • What are some of the best ways to spend time together as a family?

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Try It Out

Ready to put some of your precious seconds to good use? Check out these fun ways to spend quality time together as a family:

  • Play some fun Backyard Games! Watch those seconds turn into minutes and then into hours as you play fun games with your friends and family members right in your own backyard. Time spent with friends and family is always time well spent, so find a game that you can all enjoy and play the day away!
  • Playing games isn’t the only way to have a fun time with friends and family. Why not become tourists in your own city? Have you seen all there is to see in your local area? There always seem to be those little places that you never seem to get around to visiting. Find a new place to explore today. Or you could also make a family meal together! Have all family members think of their favorite food that they’d like to share with everyone else. Head out to the grocery store together and get all the supplies you’ll need. When you get home, turn on some music and get cooking in the kitchen. Enjoy your time together. You’ll have a feast you won’t soon forget! After you’re finished eating, why not end the day by having a family reading party in bed?! Bake some cookies, grab a glass of milk and snuggle up together to read some of your favorite stories together.
  • Up for a challenge? Units of time aren’t the only units of measurement that you can learn to convert from smaller to larger units and vice versa. Head to the kitchen and get out a set of measuring cups and spoons. Using these items, experiment on your own to figure out how the units convert from one to another. How many teaspoons are in a tablespoon? Feel free to use the Internet to research conversion tables for these units of measurement to determine whether your best guesses were accurate or not. 

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Use Illuminations’ interactive Times Table tool to practice multiplying numbers!


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