Fourth-Grader Invokes “Girl Code” to Answer Common Core Math Problem

Image Source: Jenn Morrison Douglas
Image Source: Jenn Morrison Douglas

When a fourth grader was asked a strangely adult question on a math worksheet, her answer could not have been more perfect. Maddy Douglas cleverly invoked “girl code” to explain why a group of four boys and four girls shouldn’t be dating each other at random.

Maddy’s mother, Jenn Douglas, brought the question to light when she posted it to the HuffPo Parents’ Facebook page with #girlcodetrumpscommoncore last week. Douglas’ picture shows a math homework question that says:

“In high school, Frank, Mike, George, and Ron each went out on a total of 4 dates with 4 different girls. The second time Frank dated Rose and George dated Kay. The third time Mike dated Mary and Ron dated Louise. The fourth time, George dated Louise and Ron dated Kay. For each of the 4 times, tell which girl dated which boy.”

To which Maddy responded:

“I can’t answer this problem, because my mom says according to girl code you shouldn’t date a friend’s ex-boyfriend.”

And mom would be right. Douglas, a self-described open-minded single mom, was one step ahead of this curveball question — she had already started talking about adult topics, like dating, with her daughter on an age-appropriate level. And yet, there was something about the homework question that didn’t sit right. Though Douglas said her daughter’s response was “too cute not to share,” she still found the math question inappropriate for a fourth grader.

Douglas told Babble:

“As we were working through her homework that night, I read that question and was dumbfounded they asked fourth graders a question about dating. [Maddy] learned at day camp last summer what girl code is. Her best friend stopped talking to her after she starting saying her ex-boyfriend was now her boyfriend. (Whatever ‘boyfriend’ means to a fourth grader, which I tell her she can’t date until she’s 32), but instead, I explained to her why her best friend was upset with her was because of ‘girl code’ and explained why girlfriends are important. The next day she dumped the boy and apologized to her friend.”

This isn’t the first time a parent has raised an eyebrow to the Common Core. New Common Core educational standards that were released in 2010 have now made their way through all but four states. With each Common Core change in school curriculum, we’ve also seen plenty of parent complaints — from the parents who are protesting Common Core by “opting out,” to the dad who went viral for writing a sarcastic Common Core check. And then we have moms like Douglas who are scratching their heads at the kinds of questions their kids are being asked in math class.

Douglas hasn’t gone so far as to opt out yet, but her viral photo of her daughter’s homework brings up another interesting parenting dilemma: How are we going to react when our child inevitably comes home with a homework topic that makes us uneasy? Is this a teachable moment or a cause for concern?

Like mother, like daughter, Douglas couldn’t have handled her daughter’s response to the math question any better. She’d already laid the groundwork by talking to her young daughter about respect for friends and members of the opposite sex while “dating” in elementary school. Douglas turned a loaded question into a life lesson that her daughter is guaranteed to remember.

Even better, Maddy’s teacher took her witty answer in stride when she turned in the worksheet on Friday. According to Douglas, her teacher laughed and said, “Good point.”

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