“If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in one week?” read one math problem.
Another question read, “Each tree had 56 oranges. If eight slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?”
A further question asked how many baskets of cotton Frederick filled.
Parents Of Third Graders Outraged
These are samples taken from the math homework given to third graders in Gwinnett County, Georgia, last Wednesday. The response from parents was outrage.
From ABC News:
Christopher Braxton told ABC News affiliate WSB-TV in Atlanta that he couldn’t believe the assignment his 8-year-old son brought home from of Beaver Ridge Elementary school in Norcross.
“It kind of blew me away,” Braxton said. “Do you see what I see? Do you really see what I see? He’s not answering this question.”
“I was furious at that point,” Braxton said.
“This outrages me because it just lets me know that there’s still racists,” said Stephanie Jones, whose child is a student at the school.
“Something like that shouldn’t be imbedded into a kid of the third, fourth, fifth, any grade,” parent Terrance Barnett told WSB-TV. “I’m having to explain to my 8-year-old why slavery or slaves or beatings are in a math problem. That hurts.”
Incorporating Social Studies Into Math Problems?
How did the school district respond? As first reported by AJC.com, Gwinnett County school district spokeswoman Sloan Roach said the teachers were attempting to incorporate social studies into math problems. She also agreed that the questions were not appropriate.
As a teacher, I am embarrassed and angered. Incorporating social studies does not mean using math problems to throw in information about Georgia’s racist past. First, why use such examples in the first place, if not to stir up anxiety and fear? Second, don’t the teachers understand that such background requires a good deal of context and discussion to promote understanding?
School district officials said the principal at Beaver Ridge Elementary School will personally work with teachers to come up with more appropriate lessons and will offer more opportunities for staff development following the uproar created by the worksheet.
Call For An Apology And Diversity Training
But some parents at the school, where a majority of the students are minorities, called for an apology and diversity training for the teachers and district officials.
Under district policy, the worksheet should have been reviewed before being handed out to students, but that process was not followed this time. District officials said they would work with math teachers to come up with more appropriate questions.
But this is a troubling situation and several questions remain unanswered. Why has the district not issued an apology? How could something like this have happened in the first place? How on earth could these teachers not have realized that these math problems were completely inappropriate?
What do you think?
Photo Credit: Faithful Friends St. Louis