Mixing It Up

A closer look at cultural diversity

Math problems ask about slaves picking cotton

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Math problems used in an 8-year-old's assignment in Georgia. / Photo: ABC News

Earlier this month, a father in Georgia was furious when his 8-year-old son brought home his math homework, ABC News reported.

The homework included math problems that asked about slaves picking cotton, oranges and getting beatings.

Here are some examples:

“Each tree had 56 oranges. If eight slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?”

“If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in one week?”

A spokesperson from the school district in Gwinnett County, GA said the school was trying to incorporate social studies into math problems.

I think the problem here is that the math problems are extremely culturally insensitive.

They are not necessarily racist. The problem is that this country has such a foul history with slavery, that it would be impossible for this homework assignment not to offend someone.

Personally, I would be pretty upset if I had a child that came home with his assignment. Would you?

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Categories: Race Relations

6 Responses

  1. Twelve year teacher says:

    I am appalled and shocked. This isn’t the case of cross integrating the curriculums. This is a southern teacher, hiding her views behind a cultural topic in social studies.Being an educator myself, I know there are many to incorporate social studies & math and this is the furthest from it. There are just some topics too sensitive to go there, cotton picking and the violence of beatings is definitely something you don’t put in a math problem. That’s like an eastern European teacher incorporating gas chambers and the skinning of people into 2nd grade science or a western teacher teaching multiplication to third graders using how many Japanese went in and out of internment camps. It’s a wound that just hasn’t healed in the country.
    I think some people are forgetting this is the south. And it took a very long time for the state of Georgia to become aware of the insensitivity and the hurtful message of seeing the confederate flag on the state flag. I have personally witnessed white southerners in public slip up and use the “n” word when referring to blacks because then are so use to freely using it in there homes. As an educator, I can see any justification of her going here. She probably thought it was funny & amusing when she wrote the problems out. Looks like the last laughs on her now. Serves her right.

  2. Lily says:

    I think their “incorporating” Social Studies into Math problems excuse is because they obviously got caught! It’s amazing that these people don’t even think there is anything wrong with this!
    Khalid, what the heck are you talking about?!

  3. Kevin H says:

    It’s a sad commentary that these people are “educators”.
    Who could possibly think that there is nothing wrong here?
    Which is just as scary.

  4. Khalid Muhammad says:

    And how is this different then the things in the book that some parents in Brookfield didn’t like? Oh, I see, your dislikes are more important then their dislikes. Did you read the entire test before you decided you didn’t like some questions? Is test banning better then book banning?

  5. chris123 says:

    I don’t believe the people who came up with this plan are racists.
    I think they are dopes.

  6. chris123 says:

    Stacy -

    I think you are missing the point. It’s math class.

    Yes, the questions were “culturally insensitive.” But I think these questions were created by ignorant, well-meaning clods who thought they were doing the right thing.

    Really, the obvious solution is to not inject race and slavery into a
    second or third grade math class.

    Perhaps the answer is to just limit math class to math. Particularly for second or third graders.