Atlanta School Sends 8-Year Olds With Math Homework About Beating Slaves

Nine third-grade math teachers in Gwinnett County, Georgia sent a class of mostly black and Latino students home with questions about beating slaves and picking fruit.

By Jorge Rivas Jan 10, 2012

Nine 3rd grade teachers at an Atlanta-area elementary school sent their mostly black and Latino students home with math word problems that referenced slavery, beatings and picking fruit–with no historical context.

"Each tree had 56 oranges. If eight slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?", read one problem that went home with 3rd graders at Beaver Ridge Elementary school in Norcross, Georgia, local station WSBT reported.

Another read, "If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in one week?"

But perhaps the most troubling question was one about a voting tax that offered no context and could easily lead an 8-year old to believe that voting could get you fined.

"Susan B Anthony was fined $100 for voting for president. She only had $25, how much more did she need to pay the fine?

The majority of the students at Beaver Ridge Elementary are students of color and come from low-income families. According to public records, 62% students are latino and 24% are black.

To present a question about a voting fine with no context to young developing brains is unforgiveable when you consider blacks and Latinos are precisely who the Democratic Party of Georgia says have a harder time voting because of the state’s Voter ID law.

Something like that shouldn’t be imbedded into a kid of the third, fourth, fifth, any grade," Terrance Barnett, an African-American parent told WSBT. "I’m having to explain to my 8-year-old why slavery or slaves or beatings are in a math problem. That hurts."

Gwinnett County School District spokeswoman Sloan Roach told WSBT that the teachers, who was not identified, was attempting a "cross-curricular activity," in which social studies topics would be woven into math assignments. 

But with no historical context offered in any of the questions the piece of homework is troubling.

"We understand that there are concerns about these questions and we agree that these questions were not appropriate," Roach went on to say.

The NAACP in Georgia is calling on the district to fire the teacher who wrote the questions. 

On Monday, the school district announced it has launched a full ‘human resources investigation’ into all teachers involved with the controversial math homework going home with students.

This is the second time in two years race and ethnicity on a homework assignment sparked controversy at Gwinnett County School District schools. Last march a 3rd grade teacher sent students home with a homework assignment about "illegal aliens," that asked if immigrants should be ‘put to death’ or ‘shot in to space.