Parents of students at a Georgia elementary school received a shock while helping their children with their math homework earlier this month, assignments which included word problems with racial imagery.
Chris Braxton told Macon, Ga. CBS affiliate WMAZ that his son, a third grader at Beaver Ridge Elementary School in Norcross, Ga., asked about beatings and slavery. The questions arose thanks to math problems he was assigned by a teacher.
One of the offensive math problems was, “Each tree had 56 oranges. If 8 slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?" A second was: "If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in 1 week?"
Parent protests over the questions were swift and plentiful. Gwinnett County, Ga. School District spokesperson Sloan Roach told Atlanta ABC affiliate WSB-TV that the assignment was a mistake and a teacher-initiated effort gone awry.
“We understand that there are concerns about these questions and we agree that these questions were not appropriate,” said Roach.
She said two teachers were trying to create a cross-curriculum assignment, mixing history and math, which was assigned without the approval of the school’s principal. The questions were given to four of nine third-grade classes at Beaver Ridge Elementary.
According to WMAZ, the local branch of the NAACP has called for the firing of the teachers and staff involved in the incident. Roach told the station that an investigation is taking place to determine if the teachers will face discipline, but that they remain in the classroom for now. The school’s vice-principal said copies of the questions have been shredded to prevent further use.
“I'm having to explain to my 8-year-old why slavery or slaves or beatings are in a math problem. That hurts,” Terrance Barnett told WSB-TV.