Elementary student refuses to answer ‘offensive’ math problem about how much girls weigh

MURRAY, Utah — A Salt Lake County fourth grader is speaking up, claiming a math problem in her homework sheds light on a bigger problem: young girls’ body image.

“I was shocked… I was shocked, honestly,” said Naomi Pacheco as she stood in front of her daughter’s elementary school.

It was the last thing Naomi expected to see on her 4th-grader’s homework.

“I feel like it’s such an irresponsible way to teach children how to do math,” Naomi told KSTU.

A math problem.

“The problems right before that talked about watermelons, and then the problem before that, a Saint Bernard,” said Melissa Hamilton, the Murray City School District Director of Elementary Teaching and Learning. “So, 4th-grade student, 4th-grade problem.”

But the questionable equation wasn’t comparing apples and oranges.

“It was comparing girls’ weights,” said Naomi.

“It says, ‘The table to the right shows the weight of three Grade 4 students. How much heavier is Isabell than the lightest student?” Naomi read the question aloud from a picture she had taken on her phone.

Naomi’s 9-year-old daughter, Rhythm, wasn’t okay with what she saw.

“She said, ‘You know mom, I’m not going to answer this question, I’m not going to do it,’” Naomi recalled.

“I thought it was offensive,” said Rhythm. “I didn’t like that because girls shouldn’t be comparing each other. I know it was a math problem… but I don’t think that was really okay.”

Rhythm chose not to answer the question.

“She circled [the question] and wrote, ‘What! This is offensive! Sorry I won’t write this it’s rude!’” Naomi said as she continued to read from the photo.

Rhythm said she was concerned she would get in trouble, ‘because we get graded on this.’ So, she decided to write her teacher a letter in addition to the short message she wrote next to the question on her math worksheet.

“I don’t want to be rude, but I think that math problem wasn’t very nice, I thought that was judging people’s weight. Also, the reason I didn’t write a sentence is because I just didn’t think that was nice,” Rhythm read from the letter which she since got back from her teacher.

“Her teacher was so responsive and spoke to her about it and supported her decision,” Naomi said. “This isn’t about the teacher, the school, or anything — we love our school and our community. What it’s about is children being taught this everywhere, that it’s okay to make direct comparisons with weight.”

The problem in question is part of Rhythm’s Common Core math curriculum, provided to Murray City School District by Eureka Math.

“They’re trying to make questions relevant to a fourth grader’s life and lifestyle and things that they encounter,” Hamilton said.

The school district said this is the first year they have used Eureka Math as a provider for their students. The district said they were, and still are, eager to use the curriculum given its proven success rates in other states.

“I didn’t really think that would be on homework, I thought that would be fruits or vegetables or things like that,” said Rhythm.

“I can certainly see if a 4th-grade student did misconstrue that question. However, in math curriculum, [it] wasn’t about body image — the question was about moving kilograms to pounds,” Hamilton said.

Fox 13 reached out to Eureka Math. They said in the six years they’ve provided math modules, they’ve never had a complaint about one of their questions.

“There is no value judgment in the question about weight, it’s merely a comparison," Eureka Math’s Director of Marketing Communications Chad Colby told Fox 13 in a phone conversation. "It sounds like the parent is putting the value judgment on it, not the question."

“I think we have other resources and other ways of teaching our children math and how to weigh proportions, objects, people, without direct comparisons — especially comparing little girls,” Naomi said.

“The fact that they [Eureka Math] are asking questions like this irresponsible,” Naomi continued. “If it is such a great way to teach, then I think we can look outside of the box and ask questions differently. There’s just no need for it.”

Colby said he did not believe there was any reason for the company to address the question or have it removed.

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9 comments

  • Kevin Rahe

    Now we’re teaching our kids to be overly sensitive to the fact that some people have bigger bones than other people do. Silly!

  • mangodawnie

    Well apparently the writers of this question have never been a chunky 4th grade girl. This question right here would have been the perfect fuel to start the bullies mouths just a flappin when I went to school. I can hear it now “Dawn weighs 700lbs, Gretchen weighs 800lbs, an elephant weighs 300lbs, who is bigger than an elphat?”…..insert the laugh…insert the tears..?insert the obsession with weight poblems…it’s just not necessary

  • iLak

    So a little girl expresses her concerns and a grown director of marketing responds by disregarding her completely and telling the parents they’re putting too much judgement on it… SMH. I get it, to adults this would be overlooked and considered overly sensative… but have you sat at a lunch table with 4th grade girls today? They’re mean. They would probably replace the girls names in the problem with girls they know and put laughing faces… bullying is real… and adults should stop being petty like this director of marketing and start listening to children…
    Why not put your customers first and just switch the question to something less “offensive.” Don’t wanna let your pride down to a 4th grader? Of course it’s a man that would disregard/disrespect a little girl.

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