Math Questions About Slavery And Beatings: Why You Should Check Your Kid’s Homework Assignments

Part of my job as a blogger is to scan the headlines. And this story that I found on ABC News completely blew me away: 3rd grade students in Gwinnett County, Georgia, were given math questions about slavery and beatings. The article quotes two such questions:

  • “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?”

The ABC News report cited a school representative who said that the questions were an attempt to incorporate social studies into math problems.


Look, it’s critical for schools to take on sensitive topics in an age-appropriate manner. Having threads to link different subjects is important. And there will always be debates about some of the content in school systems (sex education, evolution, religion, etc). But this approach is simply an offensive method for introducing 3rd graders to the complex topic of slavery in this country.

So what’s the take-home message for parents? Stay on top of your kid’s homework – not just to track their academic progress, but also to monitor what they are really learning in school.

Image of math problems via

Add a Comment
Back To Red-Hot Parenting
  1. by laci duke

    On January 9, 2012 at 10:47 am

    I don’t know how to take this..I mean, this seems a little much. And then they actually tried to defend this nonsense!!

  2. by Lorinne Burke, MMFT, LCPC

    On January 10, 2012 at 8:42 am

    The problem here is the way the incorporation of social studies accepts slavery. These math problems would have been perfect for white plantation children before the Civil War. I don’t see that they have a place in today’s math texts.

  3. by Johanna Saldana

    On January 10, 2012 at 8:48 am

    I taught 3rd grade math, science, and history in Texas for 4 years and never encountered anything like that. Blame THAT school/teacher, don’t criminalize ALL schools/teachers.

  4. by Heidi

    On January 10, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Wow, that is the worst cross-discipline theme unit ever! My daughter’s 3rd grade class studied the history of slavery in America too, but they really focused on the heroes of the underground railroad like Harriet Tubman (history), they also traced routes on maps (geography), calculated how long it would take to travel to Canada and how many miles a day the escaping slaves would have to travel (math), and they studied the Dred Scott case (political science), and historical documents like the Emancipation Proclamation (history). One of the most important aspects of their studies was acknowledging the evils of discrimination and how important it is to stand up for what is right even in the face of institutional injustice. These are lessons that are still very applicable today. It is important to teach children that the world was not and is not perfect, but we need to do this without justifying or sanctioning the actions of our ancestors or ourselves.

  5. by Sofia

    On January 10, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    This always happens. Mixing too many things together, so as to not really present any of them appropriately. What about the Church that had a children’s Easter “play”, where they whipped the Easter Bunny, instead of Jesus? Not made up. You can Google it.