“Social Studies” Math Problems Cause Uproar

Worksheet Question

WSB-TV / Channel 2 Action News

Beaver Ridge Elementary School in Norcross, Georgia, landed in hot water after third-graders’ math homework included word problems that many parents found offensive.

In an interview with WSB-TV, one father said he was shocked to discover that his son’s homework included questions focused on slavery, including “Each tree had 56 oranges. If 8 slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?” and “If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in 1 week?

Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that more than 100 third-graders received the homework. In the WSB-TV interview, school district spokesperson Sloan Roach said the teachers were trying to do a “cross-curricular activity” that integrated social studies and math. She acknowledged that the questions were “not appropriate.” The district has launched an investigation.

There is nothing wrong with teaching geography, history, and social studies across the curriculum; however, context and appropriate perspective are vital. These two characteristics appear to have been missing in the math homework.

–Tim Hill


6 thoughts on ““Social Studies” Math Problems Cause Uproar

  1. I think this teacher knew this assignment was inappropriate before she handed it out to students. I believe in teaching about topics such as slavery because its an important part of our country’s history. Maybe trying to integrate this subject of social studies with math just is not an option.

  2. I have to give the Beaver Ridge Elementary School credit for trying to incorporate social studies lessons into math. Unfortunately, the instructor’s use of slavery was an inappropriate, sensationalist approach to take. Consider that a large percentage of school-aged children during the mind to late 1800’s were from farms. These students were required to be proficient in calculating area, volume, economics, weights and measures, etc; all of which are necessary skills in managing an agricultural business. The Beaver Ridge Elementary math teacher missed an excellent opportunity to allow his or students to experience, in a small way, the life of our forebearers by having the students work on similar problems in favor of a lesson that seems intended to shock more than teach.

  3. These worksheets seem appalling, for good reasons. However, I agree with Jim. Incorporating these agricultural problems into a math/social studies lesson could have been a good opportunity if applied in the right context. Perhaps if the students did some role playing of situations in the South during that time period would have been more appropriate. It seems as though this would have worked much better if they were incorpating math into a social studies lesson, instead of social studies into a math lesson. These worksheets were lacking context and descriptions behind the problems. I am surprised that the teacher didn’t come across more parent issues when they saw this worksheet.

  4. I agree with Katelyn, Andrea and Jim. I believe that this should first be a social studies lesson then the teacher can incoporate math into the lesson. Segregation was big back in the old days. The students need to first learn what slaves and segragation is before the teacher brings them up in a lesson. I bet their were a lot of upset parents or blacks that were offended.

  5. The problem with this worksheet is is takes the issue of slavery out of context. Simply asking the students to calculate the number of beatings that a slave would receive on a particular day is offensive, and ignores that all important aspect of context. I think the worksheets in general were a lazy attempt at cross curriculum.

  6. It seems as though Beaver Ridge may have crossed the line and as jim mentioned they definitely taught in a shocking manner. However, they bring the issue of censorship in curriculum to the forefront. Is it shocking to talk about slavery to third graders because it is an American issue? If the content covered the Holocaust, how much censorship would be used? Obviously, the age of the students plays a factor and in this case third grade seems a little young.

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