2nd grade tedium

1,001 1,002 1,003 1,004 1,005 1,006 1,007 …

My son’s teacher is requiring the class to write down every number from 1 to 1,000.

… 1,008 1,009 1,010 1,011 1,012 1,013 …

Instead, my son has to write down 1,001 to 2,000.

… 1,014 1,015 1,016 1,017 1,018 1,019 …

Apparently he’s in the advanced group?

… 1,020 1,021 1,022 1,023 1,024 1,025 …

On the first day he got up to 1,120.

… 1,026 1,027 1,028 1,029 1,030 1,031 …

At that pace he’ll be doing this for nearly two weeks in class.

… 1,032 1,033 1,034 1,035 1,036 1,037 …

It’s not a punishment. It’s a class activity.

… 1,038 1,039 1,040 1,041 1,042 1,043 …

He loves it. I can’t stand it.

… 1,044 1,045 1,046 1,047 1,048 1,049 …

34 Responses to “2nd grade tedium”

  1. Is this not tantamount to Bart Simpson writing sentences on his classroom chalkboard after school?!?!?! Ughh. And your son is required to do EXTRA work by having to write all of those leading 1’s and fill-in 0’s.

  2. Fear Not. In just 2 years (maybe less) he’ll hate it and think its a dumb assignment. And, oh yeah, “nothing” happened at school that day either.

  3. Hilarious … or scary. Maybe both. Would be a nice lesson if the students spend 2 weeks writing out all those numbers and then the day after the teacher shows how to do the exact same thing in Excel … in exactly three milliseconds.

  4. I’m curious as to what the teacher’s rationale was for this assignment. Does this assignment satisfy any objectives in the school district’s curriculum?

  5. Out of context this seems tedious. Have you checked on the reasoning/rational behind this assignment? Perhaps sequence of numbers discovery? In second grade that’s one of the skills taught. Seems tedious but sometimes tedium is necessary. Example, learning the multiplication tables.

  6. It just sickens me when I think of how homework can extinguish the passion for knowledge and learning.

    More info:

    Straight from the horse’s mouth: http://www.alfiekohn.org Check out “The Homework Myth”

    Article/Video: http://tinyurl.com/2a4zla

  7. Homework? How much or how little? I have a partial answer for you. 35+ years ago when I started my career in education I was expected to teach academic subjects. (3 R’s etc) By the time I retired the school had become a surrogate parent. Schools today are expected to do more and more that, IMO, is outside the realm of “teaching”. Compare the life skills taught at home 35 years ago by a parent or parents to what is taught at home today. Scary? Schools have been expected to take up the slack and it’s now over coming many teachers using their valuable teaching time and the time for the kids to do their work in and during class. Resulting in increasing amounts of homework. It’s getting worse by the year too.

  8. Just to clarify, this is not homework. This is in-class work each day.

  9. I’m not so sure this assignment necessarily “extinguish[es] the passion for knowledge and learning”. My 4-year old never — I mean NEVER — gets tired of reciting the numbers from 1 to 50 (or whatever she makes it up to that day), in order. Little kids like repetition and they like the sense of mastery over a language they can attain by doing simple stuff like counting.

    I will admit that 2nd grade seems a little old for this, but then again 1,000 might seem as big to a 2nd grader as the number 100 does to my 4-year old.

    And it’s very likely the teacher is doing this because s/he doesn’t feel like doing something more substantive.

  10. This is classwork? Seems like busy work to me. Personally, I’d be on the phone asking for the rationale of the assignment. What skill/concept is allegedly being learned?

    With assignments like this, it is no wonder many kids hate math by the time they get to high school.

  11. It sounds as though this teacher does not enjoy their job. I teach Science to second graders. If I began having my students do mundane activities such as this, I would have to question why I chose this career. I don’t know, maybe tomorrow I will have one of my second grade classes copy the names of all of the planets 1,000 times. I will make sure they don’t add Pluto!

  12. Want to have kids understand 1000? Here’s what our grade 1 teacher did.


  13. IF it was a tech-friendly teacher they would be writing numbers from 1 to 1024 and underlining 1,2,4,8,16,32,64,128,256,516,1024 and explaining why they’re important numbers.

  14. To be honest, I did a similar assignment in 6th grade typing class, but only for two days and only to reinforce typing numbers. Oh, and we added the word fish between. Kids loved it. They raced to see who could get the most fish in the two days.

    Good luck with this one!

  15. I’m glad he loves it. My son is in grade one and he sure doesn’t love it. All we do is sit and listen. I’ve seen them and in fact they don’t just sit and listen. She has them moving quite a bit and they do get some free play time which I think is extremely valuable for their social skills. School is not about what they learn anymore, if it ever was. It’s about the processes and social development. If I wanted just academics, I could do it myself at home, although we might kill each other. We’re too temperamentally alike, practicing piano is all the evidence I need not be going to a home school environment. I’m hoping that further into the year he feels more engaged. It challenges my own teaching to hear him. I’d love to say that my classroom is a vibrant studio-like environment with students engaged in their own learning but truth be told some days I’m hanging on for dear life and hoping that they don’t hurt each other. Have I done a little seat work for sanity’s sake? Absolutely but I try to make it short chunks of time and still reasonably relevant. Handwriting practice comes to mind and yes in grade four and five they still love it. They know the answer and can do it correctly without thinking. I think that appeals to them. So there’s some give and take – a little mindless work for them, a little critical thinking for me. Hopefully, I’m not the only one doing the critical thinking.

  16. Wait until he is required to memorize all the states and their capitals just so he can recite them back on a test. This is one of my pet peeve activities. How about word searches used for seatwork? Talk about a waste of school time. How about the teacher who assigns a writing assignment as a punishment for misbehavior?

    Maybe we should start a wiki of all of the stupid assignments that are given to students in place of thought provoking, engaging, interesting work. I’ll bet it fills up real fast!

  17. Can they write code to generate the numbers for them? I’d love to see that happen!

  18. “Wait until he is required to memorize all the states and their capitals just so he can recite them back on a test. This is one of my pet peeve activities. How about word searches used for seatwork? Talk about a waste of school time. How about the teacher who assigns a writing assignment as a punishment for misbehavior?”

    hmmm…Dave’s comment makes me think of that 5th grader tv show and how it points out weaknesses in what we emphasize for teaching/learning.

    I agree with David and John – do you know why kids are doing this, Scott?

  19. I’ve been a teacher for many years. This horrifies me. What is the point – other than to increase the tedium in his life? I would have stopped my kids from writing until I could talk with the teacher and find out the purpose…and even then, we might be done with that assignment!

  20. After thinking about this more last night, I got curious about how many times your son would write the digit “1” and how many times he’d write the digit “2” and so on. As I thought for a few minutes, I realized that could turn into a *fun* challenge to pose to my 6th grade math class today. So I basically explained what your son is assigned to do, and asked my students to work out how many times he’d write each of the ten digits. I only modified it ever-so-slightly, and asked my students to work out 1000 – 1999 (the patterns hold up a little better than with 1001 – 2000).

    Interestingly, about half of the pairs (we work with seat partners) proceeded to start writing out every number (that second grade teacher would be proud!!), while the other half tried to look for patterns. Let’s just say that after about 20 minutes, I put the problem on hold and they’re going to keep thinking over the weekend. So we’re not done yet, but I’ll be interested to hear their reasoning for their conclusions.

  21. Rich,

    That is an awesome idea. I’m going to steal that and suggest it to some middle school math teachers I know.

    – Guy

  22. Second grade tedium leads to sixth grade monotony leads to ninth grade boredom and 12th grade drudgery.
    What is the educational rationale? We ALWAYS have to ask and answer that question.

  23. That reminds me of a story my master teacher told me during my year of student teaching in Los Angeles. He said “you wouldn’t believe it, there is a teacher that left here last year who had students transcribe the textbook on a daily basis. Each day the kids would walk into class, open up their text to page suchandsuch and then copy it verbatim into a notebook while he sat at the front of the desk and read the newspaper.”
    I hope your son doesn’t have to do that next!
    2001, 2002, 2003, …..

  24. Sounds like your son’s teacher uses the Everyday Mathematics program. They have the kids work on number scrolls as a way to get them to practice number writing, examine patterns on a number grid and explore place value. I have my kids write from 100 to 200 in class and then leave the paper out if they choose to add on to their scroll. I don’t think demanding them to do up to 1,000 is a good use of our time. However, you would be surprised at how many of them CHOOSE the grid paper when they are finished with something and INDEPENDENTLY keep going. I’ve even had kids ask me for more grid paper when the pile runs out….crazy.

  25. Mimi,
    You are right. It is an Everyday Math activity, but I have only seen it used with first graders early in the year. Certainly not in second grade. It’s one of the only activities in that program that I don’t like.

  26. Holly Kragthorpe-Shirley Reply October 7, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    Wow, you have got to be kidding me. At least your son loves it. How long will it take before he asks, “What does this activity have to do with my life?”

    In these situations (parent despising busy work) what kind of conversations should happen between parent and student and between parent and teacher?

  27. I have an interesting assignment. Have the students tour(field trip) Detroit, Michigan. And then explain to them that if they pay attention during Democrat Indoctrination 101. And listen to there teachers opinions on Bush and evil Republicans. And vote Democrat every time there’s an election. That there neighborhoods too can look like Detroit…..Yes students the 1 party system did wonders for Detroit.

  28. Rich – The problem you are suggesting was actually a math olympiad problem from many years ago. The problem was to determine how many times each digit was written down if we write down all the numbers from 1 to 1,000,000.

    I give that out every year to my sophomore math majors as an example of how you should always solve a simpler but related problem before trying the main problem.

  29. Aha! Everyday Math. My son did this last year in first grade. My older son had the same teacher and he never did it. I didn’t really understand what my younger son was saying until he brought it home at the end of the year. I think he was up to 2,xxx something. For him it was a challenge to have the most numbers. (he came in third, I think). I thought it was a bit silly, but ??? don’t know the rationale and would probably argue about it if I did.

  30. Drats, but thanks Robert. I was considering sending it in to NCTM for the “Menu of Problems” in their MTMS journal. It’s still a great problem! And I agree, it’s a good idea to bite off part of the overall problem before taking on the full-sized version (especially if you’re doing 1 to 1,000,000).

  31. Wade from Chattanooga Reply June 11, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    That seems a little ridiculous. 1000 to 2000 is 1001 numbers. 1001*4 comes out to be a 4004 character assignment and if he’s required to place in the comma. that’s a 5,005 character assignment.

  32. Following up on what Robert Talbert said (#9) – why does he love it?

    Perhaps, given more context (classroom competitive challenge, foundation for seeking patterns, etc.), this activity would make more sense.

  33. I’ll never forget when my kids had to memorize the keyboard and fill it out on a worksheet test. Seriously, why?

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