Here’s a pretty useful tip for teachers. If you’re ever in a position where you have to be creative and invent a series of math word problems for your third grade students….it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to include questions like this: “Each tree had 56 oranges; If eight slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?”
Several Gwinnett parents contacted Channel 2 Action News in outrage after their children brought home a math assignment that referenced slavery and beatings.
Christopher Braxton talked with Channel 2’s Kerry Kavanaugh and said he couldn’t believe it when he read his 8-year-old son’s math homework Wednesday.
“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.”
The question was a word problem that said, “Each tree had 56 oranges. If eight slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?”
Another math problem said, “If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in one week?”
“I was furious at that point in time,” Braxton said.
“Something like that shouldn’t be imbedded into a kid of the third, fourth, fifth, any grade,” parent Terrance Barnett said. “I’m having to explain to my 8-year-old why slavery or slaves or beatings are in a math problem. That hurts.”
Both fathers said they contacted the principal of Beaver Ridge Elementary school in Norcross. They wanted to know what the third-grade math teachers were thinking.
Kavanaugh brought that question to Gwinnett County School District officials.
“In this one, the teachers were trying to do a cross-curricular activity,” district spokeswoman Sloan Roach said.
Roach explained the teachers were trying to incorporate social studies lessons into the math problems, which is something the school district encourages. But the problem with the questions is there is no historical context.
“We understand that there are concerns about these questions and we agree that these questions were not appropriate,” Roach said.
“Whoever put together this paperwork and everything else, the schools and everything else, shouldn’t teach it this way,” said Braxton.
The parents were told the school vice principal had collected the assignment to shred them so that they didn’t resurface.
Roach said there is a process in place to review questions before they are handed out to students, which didn’t happen here.
Roach said the administration will work with teachers on how to develop better questions that are “meaningful and appropriate.”