Word Studies in Math...what is appropriate or not

a facebook friend directed me to this post about using a historical event in math.

Parents of students at Beaver Ridge Elementary School in Norcross, Ga., are outraged at the school district's response to the reports of using examples of slavery in math word problems, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

The word problems in questions include references to slavery and "beatings," according to the paper.

"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?"

It's not just the word problems that are sparking criticism, but the way it's being handled. According to the AJC, district officials said the elementary school's principal will "work with teachers to come up with more appropriate lessons."

District spokesperson Sloan Roach told the station the teachers were trying to incorporate social studies lessons in math problems for a "cross-curricular activity."

Roach went on to tell My Fox Atlanta that, while the the questions were inappropriate, she doesn't believe the teachers meant any harm.

"This is simply a case of creating a bad question," Roach told the station.

Parent Terrance Barnett told WSB TV that having to explain the questions to his child was painful.

"Something like shouldn't be imbedded into a kid of the 3rd, 4th, 5th, any grade," 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."

I have to ask as a homeschooler....how is this any different than using a Christmas theme, or a hallowe'en them or a theme on Egypt or the Middle Ages?

Granted... I doubt that as a parent/teacher I would put in a question of "how many beatings a day did this slave get"... but I fail to see why people are getting so bent out of shape.

Slavery was an event that happened in history. It is. Yes, it has emotional impact. Yes, it was a difficult and dangerous period of time. I get that. I understand it. But as a unit study loving mother/teacher... I don't understand the furor being created over it.

I would hope that the teachers aren't just throwing the information into the math questions but are actually using the math as an integral unit. As in... we are learning about slavery now and these are the issues around it, and yes, we do math as part of the learning process. IF the math is being used in a way that is divorced from the larger teaching aspect of slavery then I would have more of an issue. In that case I could see it is being inflammatory. but done within a teaching unit...I would have no issues.

What do you think? Am I missing something?

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