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GA School Uses Math Word Problems About Slavery

By carolyncastiglia |

slavery, math question

A math question posed to third graders in GA.

Third-graders in Gwinnett County, Ga., were given math homework this week “that asked questions about slavery and beatings,” Yahoo reports. Christopher Braxton, a father of one of the third-graders, told ABC News affiliate WSB-TV in Atlanta, ”It kind of blew me away.” Braxton pointed out a word problem that read, “Each tree had 56 oranges. If eight slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?”

Other questions involved slaves being beaten and picking cotton. ”I was furious at that point,” Braxton said. 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.”

But here’s the worst part:

School administrators tried to explain the gaffe by describing it as a “cross-curricular activity.” Gwinnett County school district spokeswoman Sloan Roach said “the teachers were attempting to incorporate social studies into math problems.”

Ummmmmm … really? I know that’s such a lame response on my part, but really? That’s the best excuse you can come up with? If your teachers are trying to incorporate slavery into math, why not paint slavery in a negative light? “If five slaves were headed north and three also seeking freedom joined them, how many people in total were running for their lives from evil masters trying to chase them down and whip them into submission?” I bet the same people who thought these word problems were okay wrote other “social studies” problems like, “Five Yankee soldiers lie bleeding on the battlefield. No Union soldiers came to their aid. How many Yankee soldiers died that day?” Answer: who cares?!

Obviously, there’s no good way to write a word problem about slavery, guys. Come on. ”We understand that there are concerns about these questions, and we agree that these questions were not appropriate,” Roach said. Adding (in her mind), “But we just couldn’t help ourselves. We miss the old South. Guess I’ll have to take that confederate flag down now, too. Hrmph.”

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About carolyncastiglia

carolyncastiglia

carolyncastiglia

Carolyn Castiglia is a New York-based comedian/writer wowing audiences with her stand-up and freestyle rap. She’s appeared in TONY, The NY Post, The Idiot’s Guide to Jokes and Life & Style. You can find Carolyn’s writing elsewhere online at MarieClaire.com and The Huffington Post. Read bio and latest posts → Read Carolyn's latest posts →

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17 thoughts on “GA School Uses Math Word Problems About Slavery

  1. goddess says:

    That is so outrageous and ignorant- words fail!

  2. Richan says:

    Maybe they were going for shock value? Like “look how horrible things used to be!”?

  3. Sandra says:

    Of course it’s Gwinnett, haha!

  4. littlefrogs says:

    Not appropriate for third grade.

  5. Manjari says:

    Disgusting

  6. Sanriobaby =^.^= says:

    There is no excuse for this type of “teaching”. It’s offensive on every level and for the school to try and make an excuse for this GIGANTIC mistake is a MAJOR FAIL in my book, not to mention a complete disrespect to the intellegence of those parents who were offended and complained about it.

  7. MommyAndretti says:

    My god, who would write questions like that? If only it were ignorance or insensitivity. It’s worded so specifically it seems like the person who created the lesson plan was just trying to sneak it in for “a laugh”. Those administrators should find out who is responsible.

  8. Miles W. Rich says:

    There are acceptable math word problems that can reference slavery. For example: A typical safehouse on the Underground Railway could house six runaway slaves, and the average stay for a runaway at a safe house was four days. If 1,400 runaway slaves used the railway in a 90 day period, how many safe houses would the abolitionists that helped organize the railway have to set up? That is not racist. On the other hand, the most stupid comment was by the Gwinnett County Public Schools spokesperson who admitted the questions were offensive but said they were because they had no historical context. Now imagine this question when the teach about the Holocaust. In 1944, the Nazis occupied their ally, Hungary, and decided the deport that county’s Jewish population of 500,000 to the gas chambers at Auchwitz, via train. Each locomotive could haul thirty cars, and each car could carry 150 Jews. How many trains would it take to transport all of Hungary’s Jews to Auschwitz so they could be gassed? Now that is historically accurate, but it’s just as offensive as the Slavery questions. Slavery was the African American’s Holocaust. I lived in Gwinnett County at one time, and now live right across the Chattahoochee in North Fulton County and can assure you such questions would never see the light of day in our county schools.

  9. Bridget says:

    I’m from Georgia and I’m frustrated, annoyed, pissed and embarrassed about this.

  10. The Bearded Iris says:

    Holy CRAP. That’s not far from my town! No wonder so many people homeschool in Georgia. I had heard rumors that teachers still refer to the Civil War as “The War of Northern Aggression,” but I thought surely it was a joke. Disgusting.

  11. Cali says:

    Beaver Ridge Elementary is 63% Hispanic, 27% Black, 7% Asian, and 4% White. It is likely that the staff that gave this exam is a minority. This fact is probably left out on purpose. Leaving this out stirs more controversy, bitterness, and makes for a more interesting story.

  12. Renee says:

    This goes out to all the world… Fact! When people enter into the United States they are requested to list themselves as Caucasian (Excerpt: In the United States, the term Caucasian has been mainly used to describe a group commonly called Whites, as defined by the government and Census Bureau. Between 1917 and 1965, immigration to the US was restricted by a national origins quota. The Supreme Court in United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind (1923) decided that Asian Indians and Middle Easterners – unlike Europeans – were Caucasian, but were not white, because most laypeople did not consider them to be white people. This was important for determining whether they could become naturalized citizens, then limited to free whites. The court and government changed its opinion in 1946. In 1965 major changes were made to immigration law, lifting many earlier restrictions on immigrants from Caucasoid Asia.)

    This is a worldwide problem and it includes additional groups of races other than those listed in excerpt above.

    With this being said, other than the white and black americans, people from other countries have a stereotype of what and who black americans are before they migrate to this country. The media plays a hugh role. I visited Japan in 2006 and there television news program shows blacks living in proverty, they do not show blacks as working and raising their families in unity. It shows blacks as worthless, dirty and lazy; therefore the media are to blame for this.

    In China the african people from the african continent are being sprayed with the fire hose and beaten with the police club, sounds familiar?

    The white americans are programmed this way from birth due to there ancestrial heritage and it continues on.

    Black americans are constantly reminded everyday by way of the media, elections, schools, jobs, police, medical care, white supremacy and those from other countries that blacks are targeted, and are subject to there ancestrial history of slavery, rape, incest and the list goes on. These are the truths.

    Black american children in this era and at the tender young age of these children in georgia, and all of the U.S. do not understand anything about slavery and what happened to their ancestors, they usually learn of this later in life. Who are these people that feel they need to teach our children in this manner? Fact or not… Something forced upon a group of people does not constitute its acceptance and therefore; it should not be taught in this fashion nor does any school district in the U.S. period have this right of authority to do so.

    All black americans need to wake up and come together as a group of people and file complaints with our government against these atrocities that are still occuring everyday. Our President and his family are targets themselves of these atrocities and knowingly if we see it, they see it. Those who have ears, let them hear, and those who have eyes, let them see. The First Lady has to be fumming and they are in the most highest position to do something. Why are they not doing or saying anything…. Sure we like to say we dont live in those days anymore, but really? Do you really believe that? NOT…

    We have great leaders right now today to carry this forward, let’s not just talk and joke around these issues. Let’s do something…

    All the other migrated races are about there’s so lets be about ours…

    Hispanics, don’t succumb to these atrocities, your ancestors have also suffered and your people are still suffering in 2012 of the same issues. Wake up Hispanic people because your doing the picking now… Read: http://moritzlaw.osu.edu/lawjournal/issues/volume62/number5/manion.pdf

    Don’t think yourselves too high and mistreat your black ancestors either. You know right from wrong, don’t play dumb when it’s convenient for you, people are tired of the stage act.

  13. Susan says:

    Let’s try this one. “56 pregnant women went into an abortion clinic…”

  14. Cassie says:

    I am in my final student teaching year for middle childhood math and science education. And when I heard about this I knew that it was going to be a huge bashing on the teachers. But from an educators and mother’s point of view let me just say a few words.
    #1. Cross-Curriculumstudies is something that has gained backing by research in the past 10 years or so. This is a huge undertaking for teachers because it requires for us to plan with other teachers as to what subjects will be coming up next.
    #2. So what happens is a history teacher says to a math teacher who has not had proper education in history to make a mathematics problem about their current unit, which at this time happened to be slavery.
    #3 YES this question was inappropriate. That being said the administration is doing exactly what they should be doing and defending their mathematics teacher for doing what they were told to do with the materials and knowledge they were given.
    When you require teachers to get together and create a cross curriculum plan you must also talk about what is not only age and grade level appropriate but obviously now we must talk about what is content accurate and acceptable to talk about. This is should not be offensive to people, as I am African American, but should be seen as teachers seeing some down sides to cross curriculum teaching and we should see it as a sign that our teachers are trying to integrate subjects so are students can learn better. Trust me after those questions there will be much more supervision and critique over EVERY question, test, and example problem. So don’t hate on the teachers, they were trying and everyone makes mistakes.

  15. Jessica says:

    Remember people…not all slaves were African..there were Jewish slaves in Egypt and Scottish slaves in England. But this question is all kinds of wrong.

  16. carolyncastiglia says:

    Bwah ha ha ha ha – you need to watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylPUzxpIBe0

  17. Don says:

    I still dont know how many trees there are.

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